Outer Banks resident organizing peaceful protest against wild horse tour companies

Posted at 4:18 PM, Jun 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-30 20:59:08-04

OUTER BANKS, N.C. - Wild Spanish Mustangs were brought to the New World by Spanish Explorers in the 1500s. They have called the Northern Outer Banks near Corolla and Carova home for 500 years.

"Wild horses are not something you see in the norm anymore," said Carova resident Bonita Bertovich.

Bertovich has been watching the wild horses from her porch in the Northern Outer Banks community for more than 30 years.

"They live on the land and eat the brush that is on the land," she said.

The horses are a breathtaking site for tourists to see. Crowds often gather on the beach to take pictures or take part in one of the popular horse tours.

"It is big money. What I am doing is not going to stop them, but people need to know the rules and laws so the horses are not abused," said Bertovich.

Bertovich has organized a peaceful protest ahead of the busy July 4th holiday weekend. She says she and about 50 other neighbors plan to hold signs for tour companies to see on an 11-mile stretch of beach.

Bertovich and others believe the tours come too close to the already threatened herd.

"They are allowed to stop on the beach, but we have seen them allow people to get out and surround horses and take pictures," she explained. "It is unacceptable, and the horses feel harassed and closed in."

Related: 'They are beautiful, but wild': Corolla Wild Horse fund asks visitors to be mindful of horses

News 3 spoke Monday with Bob White, Jr., owner of one of the tour companies. He said he is not violating the county ordinance that asks for people and tours to stay 50 feet away from the horses.

"Their claims are a complete falsehood; they are unsubstantiated," White said. "We do not purposefully approach the horses. If they are in the road, we must drive by, but we do not feed them; our drivers are all respectful."

Bertovich knows her gathering won't stop the tours; she is just looking to spread awareness.

"Their lives matter and they can't speak for themselves, so someone has to," she said.