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Assateague Island horse accustomed to visitors giving food relocated after becoming aggressive

Posted at 10:24 AM, May 02, 2022

BERLIN, Md. — National Park Service officials have removed an aggressive horse from Assateague Island.

Known as Chip, the harem stallion reportedly got so accustomed to park visitors leaving him food that he became a liability.

Since 2017 Chip has been involved in over half of the reported incidents at the park that resulted in injuries, according to the Park Service.

Staff had tried many times to redirect Chip away from heavily populated areas of the park such as parking lots and campgrounds, but were unsuccessful.

Officials say once a wild animal has learned to associate people with food, it is extremely difficult to reverse.

Chip's new permanent home will be at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas.

To avoid similar issues with other horses in the future, Assateague Island campers are only permitted to store food inside their  vehicle or in a secure cooler placed inside the storage box that can be found underneath all picnic tables at the park.

In 2019, the park purchased new tables specifically designed with horse-proof food storage compartments to hold standard-sized coolers and other hard-sided containers.

“All visitors need to take this food storage issue seriously and help us reduce the frequency of inappropriate interactions with the wild horses,” said Seashore Superintendent Hugh Hawthorne. “The free roaming nature of the Assateague horses is what makes them so unique and special, but there are also issues like this that need to be addressed.”

The Park Service says Assateague visitors should always keep at least 40 feet of distance from the horses, and avoid feeding them.