New ordinance protects wild horses in Currituck Co.

Posted at 8:05 PM, Jan 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-09 20:05:40-05

On the beaches of Corolla, N.C., wild horses are a major tourist attraction.  There are a number of tour companies that give people a chance to see them up close.

Over the years, though, more and more companies have started operating, and it's taking a toll on the horses.

"We have seen a big change in their behavior patterns.  They spend more time in the back where the flies are bad.  They'd rather do that than be out where there's a lot of traffic and people and vehicles," said Karen McCalpin with the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

That's why McCalpin says she's glad that after a few years of discussion, an ordinance finally passed Monday night that will do more to protect them.

One of the biggest changes restricts the number of vehicles each company can operate - it's now capped at five.

Jay Bender, owner of Corolla Outback Adventures, says he supports the change.  The company was started by his parents in the 60s and was one of the first to open in the area.  It's something he wants to be sustainable.

"Having less vehicles, less impact and everything, I think is going to make for a more sustainable long term future for the industry. I think it keeps the quality of what we're doing up all the way around," said Bender.

Other tour companies told NewsChannel 3 they agree that something needed to be done, though they may not agree with everything that passed.  One company says its fleet will be cut in half as a result of the new ordinance.

Another change affects when the tour companies can actually be on the beaches.  Tours can only operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"There was at least one company that was running sunrise and sunset tours, so basically you had people there from sunup to sundown," said McCalpin.

Companies can also no longer use buses, and the number of companies that can operate is now limited to ten.

McCalpin says it's a good start to make sure the horses that are so much a part of the region - continue to be.

"This is an animal that's lived here almost 5 centuries and they're a part of not just the Outer Banks history, but American history because our country was built on their backs," said McCalpin, "We believe that these animals are worthy of protection and preservation."