North Carolina coastal residents are evacuating or battening down ahead of Hurricane Florence — at least the human ones.
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The wild horses that make their homes on the coast of the Tar Heel state are staying put, and they might be better prepared to outlast a storm than anyone.
Hurricane Florence is a category 4 storm as of Monday evening — 400 miles wide and still gaining strength and speed as it bears down on the Carolinas coast.
North Carolina’s wild horse herd has seen its share of storms, though. They’ve been around for 500 years, after all, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund (CWHF) said on Facebook Monday.
Currituck County, where the herd lives, ordered a mandatory evacuation of the Outer Banks communities, Corolla and Carova, beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Neighboring Dare County — where much of the staff that looks after the herd lives — and other coastal counties along the coast issued evacuation orders for all residents and tourists.
“The horses have lived on this barrier island for 500 years, and they are well equipped to deal with rough weather,” the CWHF said on Facebook Monday. “They know where to go to stay high and dry and are probably in better shape right now than most of us humans who are scrambling with final preparations. “
And CWHF staff believe the horses won’t need any human help.
“Anything we might do in the hopes of ‘protecting’ them would probably end up being more dangerous and stressful for them than the storm,” the CWHF said.
Florence could bring storm surge flooding to the Outer Banks reaching 8 to 15 feet or higher, according to the National Hurricane Center.
There are 18 rescued wild horses at a farm the CWHF cares for, and staff is “making sure they are ready to ride the storm out safely. They have shelter, but also the option to stay outside.
“Just like with the wild horses, their instincts will tell them where to go to be safe.”
The rescue horses at the farm will have emergency IDs braided into their manes and staff will stay at the farm with them during the storm.
“We believe that it is safer to shelter in place, since the majority of the rescue horses are still very newly tamed, not used to being stalled, and not used to being trailered,” the CWHF said.
As of Monday evening, the CWHF’s update on Facebook had more than 560 shares, nearly 2,000 reactions and more than 200 comments from people concerned about the herd.
In an update on Sept. 13, the CWHF said staff had set up generators at the rescued wild horse farm and had stocked water and “plenty of hay.”
“The horses are wondering what all the fuss is about,” the CWHF said in its update.
By Thursday, the path of now-Category 2 Hurricane Florence had shifted south and the horses were “no longer facing a direct hit,” the CWHF said.
Last month, a filly was born to the herd — the most recent foal born this summer.
The herd of about 100 “is one of only two groups of this highly threatened breed left in the wild,” according to CWHF.
The “Banker” horses on the Currituck Outer Banks were originally transported to the barrier islands “by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. The horses now roam freely on approximately 7500 acres of habitat” north of the paved section of N.C. Highway Route 12 and are managed by CWHF, according previous reporting by Abbie Bennett for The News & Observer.
To donate to the horses’ care, click here and select “donate.”