ASSATEAGUE, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- Assateague Island National Seashore says a pony found dead last week had eaten dog food, according to its Facebook page.
On Thursday, July 20, the pony identified as N2BHS-AI, or Chama Wingapo, was found dead in a campground. She was 7 years old.
An investigation found that the horse had ingested a large quantity of dog food July 17, the post said. A necropsy determined the dog food caused a blockage and resulted in a ruptured intestine, causing death.
Most dog food contains corn, soybean, and animal products with a very high carbohydrate, protein and fat content. This recipe is too rich, and in large amounts is deadly for an Assateague wild horse whose natural forage consists of low nutrient, high fiber saltmarsh and beach grasses, according to the post.
Assateague officials remind visitors that “a fed horse is a dead horse.” In this case, the dog food was not properly stored away from the horses and other wildlife.
Last week, a visitor left the spigot on for a horse to drink. Horses can become territorial over the water spigot, said Liz Davis, chief of interpretation and education for Assateague Island National Seashore. They will bite or kick anyone who they perceive as "cutting the line" to get to the water source.
These tips can help protect Assateague ponies:
- Horses can open snap-on lids and latches. Coolers and containers “stored” under picnic tables are not secure from horses and wildlife. Secure all coolers with a nylon strap to prevent wildlife from opening.
- Secure all tote or beach bags with a zippered closure. Horses can easily access open totes and bags.
- Store all unattended food in your vehicle.
- Store all pet food in your vehicle. Do not leave your pet’s food and water bowls unattended. Horses, like your pets, are opportunists and will take advantage of a free meal.
- Keep food stored if horses are in your immediate vicinity. Wait until they have moved on before beginning your meal.
- Dispose of your trash immediately in dumpsters. The smell from food wrappers will attract horses and other wildlife, and if ingested could cause death.