Wild Stallion Moved to Sanctuary After Becoming Too Bold

Chip was a big food raider and was aggressive with people.

wild stallion Chip at Black Beauty sanctuary
Chip in his new sanctuary home.


A wild stallion has been relocated to a sanctuary because he’s become aggressive and very food motivated.

Delegate's Pride—also known as “Chip”—was removed from his home on Assateague Island in Maryland. The 12-year-old wild horse had become more confrontational and obsessed with raiding human food. He was moved to Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, which is part of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Chip often led a band of horses, although occasionally he was driven out by another stallion. He became more aggressive over the years.

“It is possible that some of this behavior was learned, as his father was also aggressive, although not to the extent Chip was,” Hugh Hawthorne, superintendent of Assateague Island National Seashore, tells Treehugger.

Since 2017, there were nine known incidents of visitors being injured by a horse on the island and five of them involved Chip, Hawthorne says.

“He was also an extremely active food raider, known to raid campgrounds, the beach, and even cars in the parking lots. The biggest problem with Chip was that he did not respond to any attempts to move him away from people,” Hawthorne says.

“Other horses are food raiders or at least occasionally aggressive, but all the other horses respond to our non-invasive hazing efforts which we use to move them out of problem situations. Chip responded to none of these methods.” 

The decision to relocate Chip was not made lightly. No horse has been moved for similar behavior for more than a decade.

Before opting to move him, park workers tried different hazing methods that didn’t work. They added more horse management staff members, increased their training, and added more signs alerting visitors to horses. They also put “horse-proof” storage containers in place in campgrounds and picnic areas.

“We consulted experts in horse management and wildlife management both within the National Park Service and locally,” Hawthorne says. “There was a unanimous consensus from those we consulted that he needed to be moved.”

They tried to relocate Chip locally, but no one would take him. So they called the Black Beauty Ranch, a 1,400-acre facility home to nearly 800 domestic and wild animals, many of which are rescued from environments like research laboratories, circuses, pet trade, and roadside zoos.

That’s where the park sent Fabio, an Assateague horse that was sent there under similar circumstances in 2011. Fabio had also learned to associate people with food.

Preventing Bold Wildlife

stallion Chip at Black Beauty Ranch


Chip is currently living in a four-acre pasture while he is under quarantine. Once he passes that mandatory period, he’ll move to a 1,000-acre pasture with hundreds of other horses.

“Chip has already won the hearts of his caregivers at Black Beauty Ranch. He appears to be relaxed and content in his new home. He calmly stepped off the trailer when he arrived and showed us how much he already loves Texas grass,” Noelle Almrud, senior director at Black Beauty Ranch, tells Treehugger.

“We are excited about his future here, where he will have hundreds of acres to roam and the ability to form new family groups or herds. He won’t be exposed to public handling or human food at Black Beauty Ranch so his diet will now be appropriate, and he will be much safer.”

One of the primary things tourists can do to prevent situations like this is keeping their food safely secure. National Park Service (NPS) suggests food should be kept inside a vehicle or in a hard-sided, locked, or strapped container such as a cooler. It shouldn’t be taken out of the container until it’s being cooked or eaten.

Horses will break into tents looking for food, so it should be secured wherever you are. Even dog food can be tempting … and dangerous. A few years ago, a horse died after eating a large bag of dog food that had been left out.

The other key is to always stay at least 40 feet (a bus length) away from wild animals.

“It is very hard to protect both the horses from the people and the people from the horses. Most visitors follow the rules, but enough get close to make the horse lose their fear of people,” Hawthorne says.

A few people attempt to feed the horses and some people have even tried to ride them.

“Once the horses get used to people, it is difficult to keep them out of the campgrounds or off the beach,” Hawthornes says. “Even if people follow the rules and keep their food secure, they still have to cook and eat it. Some of the horses will use this as an opportunity to raid. This is not all of the horses, but a large enough number to be a major problem.” 

The wild horses in the area were made famous by the “Misty of Chincoteague” books by Marguerite Henry. The horses actually live on Assateague Island, which is in both Maryland and Virginia. The ponies on the Maryland side live in Assateague Island National Seashore while the Virginia ponies live within Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

An NPS report found it was a record-breaking year in 2021 with more than 2.6 million visitors exploring Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland and Virginia.

“We can’t trade away the opportunity to appreciate these animals in the wild just for a selfish and fleeting thrill of getting close or being irresponsible with our food and castoffs. When you visit a park or any place where wild animals live, you must respect wildlife and follow the rules, which are there to protect our wild animals and us,” John Griffin, senior director of urban wildlife programs for HSUS, tells Treehugger.

“Humans knowingly and unknowingly providing access to food and garbage is at the heart of the majority of our conflicts with wild animals and it’s up to us to know when and how to keep them secure whether around our homes and neighborhoods or in wild places—because not doing so contributes to food conditioning that ultimately endangers their safety and ours.”

View Article Sources
  1. Hugh Hawthorne, superintendent of Assateague Island National Seashore

  2. "Black Beauty Ranch." The Humane Society of the United States.

  3. Block, Kitty. "'Aggressive' horse from Assateague Island arrives at our sanctuary." A Humane World: Kitty Block's Blog, 9 Jun. 2022.

  4. "Relocation of an aggressive and highly food conditioned horse from Assateague Island National Seashore to the Cleveland Armory Black Beauty Ranch." National Park Service, 2 May 2022.

  5. "Who is Misty of Chicoteague?" Chincoteague.com, 4 May 2013.

  6. "History and Culture." National Park Service.

  7. "Assateague Island National Seashore Announces Record Visitation for 2021." National Park Service.