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National Parks Traveler Podcast

May 28, 2023

Horses can be found in many corners of the National Park System. You spot them running wild at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, splashing in the surf at Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina and at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland and Virginia, and of course as pack animals and tireless steeds that carry both rangers and visitors to the parks.
But wild horses are somewhat of a conundrum in the National Park System. They’re a conundrum because they technically are not wild, but rather feral, meaning they descended from domesticated horses. As such, they technically are not native wildlife, and that has become an issue. 
At Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the National Park Service has raised the question of whether the horses there, as livestock, not native wildlife, should be removed from the park. A recent comment period on that proposal drew more than 7,000 comments, just 45 of which supported removal of the horses.
Where the Park Service will come down on horses at Theodore Roosevelt remains to be seen.
Across the country, at Cumberland Island National Seashore along the coast of Georgia, there also are feral horses, and their plight has surfaced in the form of a lawsuit that claims that animals not only are damaging the seashore's environment and two federally protected species but are not being humanely managed by the National Park Service and should be removed from the seashore.
We’re going to explore that issue today with Hal Wright, who brought the lawsuit, Patty Livingston, president of both the Georgia Equine Rescue League and the Georgia Horse Council, and Jessica Howell-Edwards, executive director of Wild Cumberland, an advocacy group for the seashore.