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Visitors warned not to feed wild horses

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POLSON — After a 7-year-old girl was either kicked or stepped on by wild horses on Wild Horse Island Aug. 17, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks officials are investigating the incident. 

The girl was feeding the horse some fruit when the incident happened. 

“This is not the first time those horses saw some apples,” said Dave Landstrom, Region 1 Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Director. “I think, just more generally, there has been some conditioning done.” 

There have been wild horses on the island since it became a park in the late 1970s, but “this is the first time we’ve had an issue,” Landstrom said, “and it’s directly due to feeding the animals.”

He further explained that the horses had a “comfort zone, like the bighorn sheep and the deer. When people got too close, they were uneasy and moved away. Now it’s obvious they are acclimated.” 

To combat the issue, Landstrom said the MFWP has increased signage at all major access sites warning people: “For the purpose of public safety, feeding of wildlife, including horses, is prohibited.” 

All the park brochures, “all the pieces of paper” tourists see, warn them to stay away from the animals, he said. 

A press release from MFWP reminds visitors that all of the animals on Wild Horse Island are wild, and people should not approach them. “Feeding animals is prohibited in the park. If the horses approach, you wave your arms, yell at the horses and make every attempt to avoid the horses and any physical contact. Montana State Parks asks visitors to report anyone observed feeding the horses or other animals on the island as soon as possible to 1-800-TIP-MONT.”

Landstrom said park personnel will cite people feeding or petting the animals; but ultimately, if feeding continues to be a problem that can’t be solved, the horses will be moved. 

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