Report says number of Shackleford Banks horses at 117

CAPE LOOKOUT, N.C. (WITN) – A new report says the number of Shackleford Banks horses remains near their target range.

The wild horses are believed to be descendants of Colonial Spanish horses.

Congressional action in 1998 has protected the horses and requires the Cape Lookout National Seashore to send out an annual report on the herd.

At the end of the year, there were 117 horses, 62% of them female and 38% male. The Park Service explains that females are living longer, thus there are more of them.

The target number of horses on the island is between 120 and 130. Cape Lookout noted that since 2005, the number has fluctuated between 105 and 126.

The herd mortality rate in 2023 was 10%, above the 6% average they have had from 1999 through 2022. Cape Lookout says four of those horses that died last year were considered to be near the end of their natural lives.

Last year, there were five foals born on the island, while contraception continues to be used to control the herd’s population, the report says.