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Eastern Shore

Aggressive horse adjusting well in sanctuary after being removed from Maryland’s Assateague Island

A wild horse named Delegate’s Pride — also known as Chip — is adjusting well after he was permanently relocated to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, a renowned wildlife sanctuary that is part of the Humane Society of the United States.

The 13-year-old horse was removed from Assateague Island last month after he became increasingly aggressive towards park visitors and staff due to his “highly food conditioned” state, according to a news release from the National Park Service.

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“Food-conditioned” is a term used to describe animals that become dependent on humans for food, which can easily happen when they start receiving food from visitors. Once a wild animal begins associating humans with food, it is extremely difficult to reverse, often resulting in the forced removal from the herd and natural habitat — especially when their food-conditioned state begins to harm not only their safety and wellbeing but also that of those around them.

As a result, Chip has been involved in more than 50% of all incidents that resulted in park visitors or staff being injured since 2017. Assateague Island National Seashore officials have used the wild horse as an example of why they strongly advise the public against feeding wildlife.

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Chip is reportedly acclimating to his new surroundings in a 4-acre pasture at the Black Beauty Ranch, where he is waiting out a mandatory quarantine period for new sanctuary residents. Afterward, he will join 400 fellow equines and have access to roam 1,000 acres of land.

“Chip seems happy, alert and very responsive, and we are honored to provide for him everything he needs for the rest of his life,” said Noelle Almrud, senior director of Black Beauty Ranch, in a news release.

Caregivers at the sanctuary have been carefully examining Chip over the past few weeks, ensuring that his health was not compromised from being food-conditioned and consuming human food over long periods of time.

Assateague Island National Seashore officials are advising the public to be proactive in protecting wild horses from incidents like this; they ask that people maintain a safe distance from horses, abstain from feeding wildlife and follow proper food storage regulations.

“We are so glad to be able to offer Chip a safe home at our sanctuary, and yet it is a bittersweet arrival since he never should have had to leave his wild home in the first place,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, in the news release. “People need to respect and appreciate wild animals so that we can safely co-exist with them and ensure that they thrive.”


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