An aggressive and highly food conditioned horse was removed and exiled from Assateague Island National Seashore on May 2nd, according to a press release from the National Park Service. The horse, most commonly known as “Chip”, is a harem stallion, and has become particularly aggressive when seeking food from visitors and while being moved away from crowds by park staff.
“Since 2017, This horse has been involved in more than 50% of all incidents which have resulted in injury to visitors. He is also extremely resistance to non-contact methods used by park staff to move horses out of potentially dangerous situations-totally ignoring actions which cause other horses to move.” – National Park Service
Chip has been moved to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, a wildlife sanctuary in Murchison, Texas.
Food conditioning is when an animal learns to associate humans with food rewards, and is most commonly discussed in bear behavior. For wild horses, it often means relocation is the only option.
“Unfortunately, reversing behavior once a wild animal has learned to associate people with food is extremely difficult. Removal often becomes the only option to manage a highly food conditioned animal, especially one causing the majority of negative and dangerous interactions with the public.” – National Park Service
Though it may seem funny at first glance, this is a rather sad story, as this horse is being torn away from his herd, his family, because park tourists, whether on purpose or by accident, trained him to have bad behavior. The National Park Service wants to remind everyone to be careful when it comes to food storage, and to NOT feed the wildlife.
Image Credit: Assateague Island National Seashore on Facebook