Horses freely roaming the vast plains of the American West —that might be what pops into your head when you think of feral equine in the US. So it might come as a bit of a surprise to know there is a herd of wild ponies in Virginia and Maryland. As if that news alone isn't exciting enough, their annual foal season is almost here —and some are already making their debut!
An average of around 70 Chincoteague Pony foals are born on the Virginian side of Assateague Island every spring.
Although, sometimes mother nature has other plans; one foal was born in late November 2019.
More recently, according to Assateague Island National Seashore, who manages the Maryland herd, while an undisclosed amount of pregnant mares are still waiting to have this year's foal, there has been one already spotted this March 2020.
"In March 2020, the [Maryland] population was 73, including 21 stallions, 51 mares, and one new foal whose sex is unknown at this time," Assateague Island National Seashore wrote on Facebook today, after conducting their wild horse consensus.
While babies are always exciting, herd numbers have to be closely monitored. Since Maryland and Virginia share a portion of the island that the equine call home, both states have a specific way of managing their herd's numbers.
The Virginian ponies have upwards of around 150 in their group; a figure that is controlled by The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. To keep the amount stable, many of the yearly foals will be sold at the Pony Auction in July.
Maryland's NPS keep their numbers under control by utilizing birth control, which also prolongs the mares' lives.
Since the island is a very big tourist attraction, adult Chincoteague Ponies and their foals can often be seen and enjoyed in all their wild glory from afar.
Despite how cute and friendly the ponies may appear, they have very strong bites and powerful kicks, so the National Park Service "reminds visitors that it is essential to remain a minimum of a bus length (40’) away from the wild horses at all times."
If admiring from afar just isn't good enough, you will have to be ready to outbid someone at the 2020 Pony Auction.
In the meantime, be sure to keep an eye out for 2020 baby photos, because there should be plenty to come.
*Cover image for illustrative purposes