6-week-old wild horse dies on North Carolina’s Outer Banks


A 6-week-old filly roaming North Carolina’s Outer Banks had to be euthanized Thursday, Sept. 22, after a leg wound became severely infected, according to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

A 6-week-old wild filly roaming North Carolina’s harsh Outer Banks had to be euthanized after a leg wound became severely infected, according to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

X-rays showed the horse, named Ceres, had “irreparable” damage to her lower right leg, the fund said in a Sept. 23 news releases.

“Ceres’ mother called for her during the night, but as of right now they have all settled down and are grazing quietly,” the fund reported in a Facebook post.

The filly is among eight wild horses born this season on Corolla, and the second to die before reaching maturity. The free-roaming herd currently stands at 101 horses.

Herd manager Meg Puckett called Ceres’ death “devastating.”

“She was in a great deal of pain. … It is always difficult to make the decision to euthanize, (but) in a case like this we knew there was no other choice,” Puckett said in a Facebook post.

“Ceres was only a little over a month old when she contracted the infection. Her immune system was basically non-existent, just like with babies of any species. Foals are remarkably tough in some ways, but incredibly fragile in others.”

The foal was “laid to rest” late Thursday, Sept. 22, next to a mare’s pasture managed by the fund. “She’ll always have her aunts looking over her,” Puckett said.

A veterinarian diagnosed Ceres with pythiosis, a disease caused by “a fungus that grows on decaying plant matter in water,” the fund reported. The spores entered her system through a lesion on her right leg, just above the hoof.

Ceres is the second Corolla horse to be diagnosed with pythiosis in recent weeks. (The other horse, an adult named June, continues to receive medical care.)

“When we don’t get solid freezes in the winter, bacteria, fungus, and other pathogens can grow rampantly. Unsettled weather patterns (flooding rain immediately followed by months of excessive heat) exacerbate the problem,” fund officials said.

“The horses’ habitat is primarily marshy, swampy, wet terrain. There is no feasible way to test for pythiosis and isolate areas where it is present, and there is no way to remove it from the environment. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a very cold winter.”

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.


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