Many Canadians know firsthand the dangers of feeding wildlife; whether it’s leaving scraps out intentionally or not disposing of garbage securely, mountain lions, coyotes, bears and other critters can become accustomed to human food and grow less wary of people. And in the end, it’s the animal who pays the price, often with its life.
While many of us associate such human/wildlife conflicts with the bigger carnivores, it can happen with wild horses, too.
In May, a 13-year-old stallion named Delegate’s Pride, aka Chip, had to be relocated from his wild home on Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. Described as “a highly food conditioned and aggressive horse,” Chip was involved in more than 50% of all incidents which have resulted in injury to visitors. According to park officials, the stallion had become increasingly aggressive towards park visitors and staff when pursuing human food, or when park staff attempted to redirect him or his band away from crowded visitor use areas such as campgrounds and parking areas. Chip also proved to be “extremely resistant to non-contact methods” employed by park staff to shift horses away from potentially dangerous situations, totally ignoring actions which cause other horses to move.
For his own protection as well as those of park visitors, Chip was relocated to the Humane Society of the United States’ Black Beauty Ranch in Texas, where he is currently undergoing mandatory quarantine in a luscious four-acre solo paddock. Once his health checks out, he will move to a 1,000 acre pasture to join the hundreds of other rescue horses.
“When Chip arrived, he calmly walked off the trailer with the ease of an experienced world traveler. He dropped his head and started grazing to his heart’s content. He meanders around and when his caregivers check on him or when he sees other horses in surrounding pastures — like Dino and Durango — he takes a quick look and then goes right back to tasting every blade of grass,” says Noelle Almrud, senior director of Black Beauty Ranch. “He appears lean and fit and we are carefully examining him to make sure he is healthy, including that he has no damage from eating inappropriate human snacks constantly available from Assateague visitors. Chip seems happy, alert and very responsive, and we are honored to provide for him everything he needs for the rest of his life.”
According to the Humane Society, Chip is not the first resident at Black Beauty who came from Assateague. In 2011, Fabio, now a sanctuary senior at 29 years old, arrived under similar circumstances.
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement, “Chip had to be removed from his home in the wild, through no fault of his own. He had become conditioned by tourists to come too close to people for food, which created a dangerous situation. This should have never happened. When people entice wild animals like Chip with treats, they are endangering their well-being and disrespecting their wild nature. That’s why it’s so important to properly store garbage and always keep your distance from wild animals. We are so glad to be able to offer Chip a safe home at our sanctuary, and yet it is a bittersweet arrival, since he never should have had to leave his wild home in the first place. People need to respect and appreciate wild animals so that we can safely co-exist with them and ensure that they thrive.”
Watch a video of Chip enjoying his new home here: