Corolla, NC - A bill that would allow the size of the Corolla wild horse herd to increase has passed in the United States House of Representatives.
House Resolution 126, The Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act, is sponsored by Republican Walter Jones. It passed the House on a voice vote with unanimous consent on Monday.
The Act would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Carolina, Currituck County and the Corolla Wild Horse Fund to craft a new management plan for the horses.
The current management plan caps the number of horses allowed in the heard at 60, a number that Corolla Wild Horses Fund Executive Director Karen McCalpin says is too low to maintain genetic diversity.
"60 is not a genetically supportable number for a wild herd," McCalpin explained. "Our herd has one of the lowest levels of genetic diversity anywhere and they are literally teetering on the brink of extinction."
McCalpin says the impacts from low genetic diversity are already manifesting themselves in the herd.
"Bad genes are passed down with the good genes and when you get a very small herd you start to see the bad things more often," McCalpin said. "We have a foal right now with parrot mouth - if you think of how a parrot looks, it makes the horse have a great difficulty eating."
The same bill passed in the House of Representatives in 2012, but no action was taken on it on the Senate side.
"Now another year has passed and with each year that passes we get closer and closer to genetic collapse," McCalpin stated.
A NewsChannel 3 investigation last November showed most of the opposition to the bill lies in duck hunters who say the wild horses eat the duck habitat at the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge.
McCalpin disagrees with that assessment and says increasing the herd size is the only option to keep the horses from dying off.
"It is the only hope they have to remain here for the generations to come," McCalpin said. "This isn't a bipartisan issue. This isn't a local fight or a regional fight, these are everybody's horses - they're nobodies but their everybody's."