Assateague Island: Where 'Wild' Horses Mooch Junk Food
Park officials worry the ponies are a little too used to humans
By Luke Kelly-Clyne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2011 3:47 PM CDT
Wild horses on Assateague Island, Maryland.   (Shuttershock)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser)

Assateague Island National Seashore: home to stunning vistas, vacationing campers, and wild horses that hustle visitors for their marshmallows, potato chips, and watermelon? An island famous for its untamed horses is feeling the pains of heightened human-equine interactions taking place on its 48,000-acre seashore south of Ocean City, Maryland, the Washington Post reports. On a perpetual quest for junk food, Assateague's 113 horses have become quite adept at getting what they want from vacationers, and their fearlessness is causing some problems.

"I didn’t believe it until I saw it,” says the park's superintendent. “Two horses put their youngest, cutest pony in front of a car, and then the older horses went around to the windows to panhandle for food.” While comedic, the horses' boldness is leading to an unhealthy environment for visitors and animals alike. This June, a stallion seeking food head-butted a tourist. Also, aluminum foil and other unnatural materials ingested by horses may be interfering with their digestive health. For both safety and wildlife preservation, the park's "Pony Patrol" has instituted $100 fines and posted warning signs to deter humans from getting within 10 feet of Assateague's hungry wildlife.