A few months back we ran a story about a wild mare named Hazel, who roamed the Outer Banks in North Carolina. She made news that day because of her habit of finding newborn foals and babysitting them while their dams grazed nearby. Hazel was a sort of nomadic grandmother, who left her herd to seek out others and do her part.
Sadly, Hazel passed away this past weekend and was found dead on the beach. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund, the official and only non-profit that oversees the herd of Colonial Spanish Mustangs wrote about Hazel on its Facebook page, with Meg Puckett, the herd manager posting following: “Hazel lived and died as every wild horse should ‒ free, and on her own terms. We will miss seeing her on the beach but take comfort in knowing she lived a great life and left a huge mark on the herd. She was laid to rest near Penny’s Hill, where she spent all of her 20+ years. Rest easy, Hazel.”
While no autopsy was performed, local media reported that the extreme heat may have been a factor in her passing. According to the National Weather Service, the temperatures in the Outer Banks reached a daily heat index of 110 degrees F, or 43 degrees C.
Wild horses face many challenges for survival in the Outer Banks, foraging for food, fresh water and enduring extreme weather such as hurricanes and heat waves. There’s also the threat of being struck by vehicles or choking on food fed to them by well-meaning tourists.
Not to mention their own personal conflicts, as witnessed this past May when two wild stallions stunned tourists by fighting on the beach. The battle was shared on social media with breathtaking photos taken by a photographer who was on sight. “Acorn and Junior were having a very serious conversation about something ‒ most likely mares. A great reminder of how very wild and very powerful these amazing animals are!” Puckett posted on Facebook.
As for Hazel’s herd mates, Puckett told a reporter, “They were not near her body when we found her,” Puckett said. “They had already said their goodbyes and gotten back to living life.”