How to Be Respectful of Wildlife
The wildlife and environmental notes below are focused on helping you watch wildlife without harming them or disturbing the environment. Always follow park rules and regulations and respect the rights of all wildlife while visiting Cape Lookout National Seashore.
- Learn before you go. Read about the history and wildlife of Cape Lookout National Seashore to get the most out of your visit. Research on the internet, read regional guidebooks, and talk with our staff and park rangers to increase your chances of seeing wild horses.
- Keep your distance. Always stay at least 50 feet from the horses. Use binoculars and cameras with zoom lenses to get closeup looks. If they approach you, stay calm and slowly back away. When close encounters occur, do not make sudden moves or obstruct the path of any animals.
- Hands off. Never touch. Do not ever try to touch the horses as attempting to do so could cause them to kick or bite. Stay off of sand dunes and beach vegetation.
- Do not feed or attract wildlife. Feeding or trying to attract the horses with food disrupts normal feeding cycles and may cause sickness or death from unnatural food items.
- Never chase or harass wildlife. Following a wild animal that is trying to escape is dangerous. Never completely surround an animal, trap an animal, block its escape route, or come between a mother and her young.
- Wildlife and pets don’t mix. Wild animals can injure and spread diseases to pets, and in turn, pets can harm and disturb wildlife. For example, wild horses could recognize dogs as predators try to defend themselves so if you are traveling with a pet, always keep them on a leash.
- Lend a hand with trash removal. Human garbage is one of the greatest threats to marine wildlife. Carry a trash bag with you and pick up litter found along the shore and in the water. Plastic bags, floating debris and monofilament line pose some of the greatest threat to wildlife. Help us and the National Park Service by bringing back any trash that you take to the islands.
- Help us in implementing the seven principles of “Leave No Trace”.
About the Wild Horses
- The wild horses are protected by law. Feeding, touching, teasing or intentionally disturbing wildlife is dangerous and can result in a fine and/or jail time.
- You must remain a minimum of 50 feet away from the horses at all times. Interfering with the horses’ grazing, drinking or resting can endanger their social welfare and health.
- Horses have the right of way. If horses come towards you, move away or, if you cannot, stay very still while they pass.
- Do not feed the horses. Feeding animals teaches them to beg for scraps and may cause them to become dependent on human food for survival. Once habituated to humans, animals can become dangerous in their search for food.
Leave Only Your Footprints Behind
Our mission is to balance human use and recreation with the preservation of the park’s natural and cultural resources. Without proper care, people can have a devastating impact on natural ecosystems.
To reduce human impact on the islands, visitors should:
- Walk only in designated areas
- Avoid areas closed for wildlife protection
- Carry out trash and everything else which was carried into the park
- Keep food away from animals
- Walk only on designated paths or ground with no vegetation
Walking over vegetation can not only damage or destroy those plants, but it can also destroy the root systems which stabilize these islands and feeds the animals. Some birds nest in the tall grass, while others will abandon nests when people get too close–leaving their eggs vulnerable to the heat of the sun.
Sea turtle hatchlings are always protected by law. Please avoid contact with hatchlings and eggs. All trash must be removed from the island. Trash left behind can kill wildlife when it is mistaken for food. For all of these reasons, Cape Lookout National Seashore temporarily closes certain areas to reduce the impact of visitors on wildlife.