Aggressive horse exiled from Maryland national park, authorities say

An aggressive wild horse on Assateague Island in Maryland was removed from the national seashore tourist site on Monday after officials said he was becoming a threat to visitors and employees.

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According to a news release, the horse, known as “Chip,” is a “highly food-conditioned, and aggressive horse.” Since 2017, the stallion has accounted for more than half of all the incidents that have injured visitors to the site, The Washington Post reported.

“He is also extremely resistant to non-contact methods used by park staff to move horses out of potentially dangerous situations,” the Assateague Island National Seashore said in a statement. Officials said the horse ignored actions that would cause other horses to move.

Chip, which also has the more formal name of Delegate’s Pride, will be sent to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, a wildlife sanctuary in Murchison, Texas, WJLA-TV reported.

“Certain individual horses (and bands) in the Maryland herd are continuing to learn to associate humans with food rewards,” park officials said in a statement. “Habituated -- or unafraid -- horses can easily become food-conditioned when they receive food from visitors, both intentionally and unintentionally through improper food storage.

“Unfortunately, reversing behavior once a wild animal has learned to associate people with food is extremely difficult.”

The stallion’s removal was criticized by several posters on the Assateague Island National Seashore’s Facebook page. Many objected that the horse was being removed because of the failure of visitors to follow park rules, especially those that ask them to keep food from the animals.

“Wild horse gets removed for being a wild horse,” Jen Reed wrote in one response. “We move in on their wild habitat, and then kick them out because they’re deemed too wild. Give me a break.”

“How about actively enforcing the rules?” another poster, Terri Ney, wrote on Facebook. “Stiff fines and removal from the island are the only way to stop the behavior.”

To avoid similar issues with other horses, Assateague Island campers will only be allowed to store food inside their vehicle or in a secure cooler placed inside storage boxes that are found underneath the seashore’s picnic tables, WMAR-TV reported.

“All visitors need to take this food storage issue seriously and help us reduce the frequency of inappropriate interactions with the wild horses,” Seashore Superintendent Hugh Hawthorne said in a statement. “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.”