ST. MARYS, Ga. — The iconic horses of Cumberland Island have been part of the landscape for as long as people can remember. Popular myths of how they first got to the island range from Spanish conquistadors to the historical Carnegie family using them to pull carriages and hunt in the 1880s. The idea of them being removed is hard to imagine for some.
Now, the famous horses of Cumberland Island are headed to court. A federal lawsuit has been filed against the National Park Service and the state of Georgia seeking to remove the feral animals from the barrier island.
Who filed the suit? Animal rights groups and a Cumberland homeowner.
Action News Jax obtained court documents on Wed., Apr. 26, detailing why the parties involved want the horses removed.
The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs are looking for immediate action against the park services and the State of Georgia to “assure the overall well-being of Cumberland Island’s horses and to protect Cumberland Island’s natural and wilderness resources, including its endangered species and habitats.”
The plaintiffs argue that Cumberland Island’s feral horses have been allowed to live in less-than-humane conditions. They also stated that the defendants have known of the destructive impacts on the island caused by the horses for over a quarter century.
According to the National Park Service, an estimated 150 to 170 feral horses currently inhabit Cumberland Island. The life expectancy of the horses on the island has been estimated to be 9 to 10 years. In comparison, the average horse can live 25-30 years.
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“Causes of mortality include high parasite loads, drought-related stress, age, natural accidents, and suspected eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus,” the NPS website reads regarding horses living on the island.
Action News Jax will be following this story for any new developments on the lawsuit.