CAROVA, N.C. (WAVY) — The wild horses are a staple to the Outer Banks. It’s a way of life in Carova to see them roaming the beaches or even outside your window. 

However, some things that are in our control are affecting the horses, and it could leave a lasting impact on the herd for years to come. 

Preserving the herd is important and it’s becoming more difficult each year as more houses continue to be built in the 4-by-4 area, and with more houses comes more trash. It’s the latest problem homeowners are facing, and it’s a problem everyone collectively wants to fix. 

“At the end of the day it’s sad that he’s here because it was something that could’ve been prevented,” said Corolla Wild Horse Fund Herd Manager Meg Puckett as she told us about Arrow.

Arrow is a 20-year-old stallion who lived on the beach until about two years ago. He and an 11-year-old mare named Valentine were getting into the trash and became food aggressive. Puckett says they would even attack people who tried to get them away from the garbage.

“There was a real danger that someone was going to get hurt,” Puckett said.

Puckett says they hate to remove horses from the beach, but there had also been some threats made against them.

“There was some talk of putting antifreeze in the garbage,” said Puckett. “That was kind of the last straw.”

Puckett says because Arrow was older, he likely wouldn’t have fathered more horses on the beach, but Valentine was in her prime.

“You think if that mare over the course of her life in the next 15 years has a foal every two or three years, think about the generations of horses that have been lost,” Puckett said.

Junior is another stallion that had to be removed from the beach because he ate an apple.

“We don’t know if someone fed it to him on purpose or if he found it laying around somewhere,” Puckett said. “He ate it and it got lodged in his throat.”

Horses can’t digest food like we can, and eating something they can’t process can be fatal to them. That’s why getting into the trash is big concern.

“It’s really only a matter of time if they are continually eating things like that, that they eat something that they can’t process,” Puckett said.

But getting into the trash isn’t anything new.

It’s something the wild horse fund says they’ve been working with county leaders to prevent for years, but as more houses continue to be built, residents say the problem is increasing.

“In the last three years, there’s probably been 100 houses built,” said Carova resident Joey Moore.

Moore has lived in Carova for more than 20 years. He says year after year they increasingly see more renters in the area, and with more people comes more trash.

“The problem is you’ve got renters coming in and out in six or seven days, and even if you have bungees to tie them together or you’ve got something to put down on top of it, if you’ve got garbage that’s over flowing the renters aren’t going to secure that properly,” Moore said.

Most people who live in there year-round take their trash to the dump. Those who rent or utilize trash pickup, are mandated by Currituck County to have a certain number of trash cans based on house size and and to place them in an enclosure like this, as described in Section 11-29.

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund sent a letter two years ago encouraging property managers to use animal-proof cans — inside the enclosures — so lids aren’t as easy for horses to pop off. County leaders say they’re continuing to work with the rental companies, homeowners and trash collectors find better solutions.

Section 11-30 states that single family homes are required to have four trash cans, but must have one additional trash can for every bedroom over four. The maximum number homes are required to have is 10. The cans can’t be larger than 40 gallons in capacity.

County leaders say some rental companies have even taken it upon themselves to add more trash pick ups at their properties, depending on how large the homes are. They say their next step is to talk more about the trash enclosures.

“There’s various types of racks, some more effective than others depending how good they are but it still boils down to the renter or guest,” said Ben Hanafin.

Hanafin lives next to a rental property and has repeatedly seen horses getting into the trash next door. He says it’s concerning.

“Who knows what they’re going to choke on when they go into somebody’s trash,” said Hanafin.

Hanafin says he doesn’t believe they need more rules or regulations, he just hopes renters would be more understanding of their surroundings and that rental companies would provide more cans if needed.

“If you have more trash than your landlord provided containers for, you either take it to the dump or take it home with you, how simple is that?” Hanafin said.

“Maybe they need more pick ups. instead of a Saturday, Wednesday pick up, maybe these larger houses should have three pick ups a week,” Moore added.

Simple solutions that could help preserve the herd for years to come.

“I think Currituck touts it, come see the horses and its a big draw but the horses are going to have it harder and harder – the more houses that are built, the more people, the more horse tours coming in and out, their days could be numbered,” Moore said.

The wild horse fund has various flyers on their website for property managers with safety reminders for the horses. They recommend posting them in rental properties.

County leaders say they’re continuing to adapt the language, and plan to revisit it again at their next meeting in December.