Development of Alternatives for Managing the Feral Horses of Assateague Island National Seashore
The NPS used the results of a population and habitat viability assessment along with input from the public to develop and assess several new horse management alternatives. Those alternatives were presented in an "Environmental Assessment of Alternatives for Managing the Feral Horses of Assateague Island National Seashore", copies of which can be downloaded from the 'Document List' section of this site.
On February 19, 2009, the Northeast Regional Director of the NPS approved a Finding of No Significnat Impact (FONSI) for the project, clearing the way for implementation of the Selected Alternative. The FONSI is also available from the 'Document List' section.
The Selected Alternative (modified Alt D) will reduce the NPS-owned horse population inhabiting Assateague Island from its current size of approximately 130 to a more sustainable population of 80-100. The target size reflects a compromise between the competing objectives of reducing the adverse effects of the horses while protecting the long-term health and viability of the population. The Selected Alternative also includes long-term monitoring, public outreach and education, and mitigation to protect the horse population from potential inbreeding effects. The reduction will be accomplished over a 5-8 year period through the intensive use of contraceptives, acting in concert with natural mortality.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thanks for your interest in Assateague Island National Seashore.
Carl S. Zimmerman
Carl S. Zimmerman
Assateague Island National Seashore
7206 National Seashore Lane
Berlin, MD 21811
(410) 641-1443, x213
The feral horses of Assateague Island National Seashore are one of the park's most well known resources. Thousands of visitors are attracted to Assateague each year for the opportunity to view free-roaming horses in a natural barrier island setting. Unfortunately, the horses have thrived too well at a cost to native species and natural processes, and have even altered the island itself. The National Park Service (NPS), who oversees the horse herd on the Maryland portion of Assateague Island, has been considering ways to achieve a better balance between keeping the Assateague horses healthy and free-roaming while protecting the unique natural environment of their island home.