ASSATEAGUE — National Park Service staffers are spending much of November conducting pregnancy tests on many of the mares on the barrier island.
Each November, Assateague Island National Seashore biologists conduct pregnancy tests on the mares among the population of wild horses on the barrier island in an attempt to predict how many if any new foals are expected to join the herd in the coming year. Essentially, staffers follow the mares and wait for them to defecate.
Samples are collected, frozen and sent to a lab to be analyzed to determine if any of the mares will be expecting next spring. There could one or two new foals next spring or as many as five or six, or possibly even zero. For over two decades, Assateague staffers have been monitoring the birthing habits of the island’s most famed residents and the information collected this month, or more specifically the fecal matter, will tell the story for the coming year.
Assateague staffers know each the mares in the herd by their alpha-numeric name, their markings, the bands they belong to and the areas of the island they tend to frequent. Although it is not entirely scientific, the pregnancy tests generally serve as a good barometer for the expected foals in the next year.