Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The Ponies of Mount Rogers
We had quite a hike up the side of Mount Rogers in order to get to the wild ponies. I'll write more later about the trek and my thoughts about the dangers they face in the winter. But as promised here are the links to some more info about the ponies. If you want additional information or photos there are plenty to be had. Simply Google "Feral Ponies Virginia" and you'll get a screen full of quality hits.
Click here to watch the story.
Feral Ponies of Virginia
Here are a few observations about the ponies and their plight. I'm actually torn as to what is the best way to handle the situation. There's something significant about letting the ponies be "wild." Letting them live and forage as their ancestors did before they became domesticated. We are used to the notion of deer being wild. Same for bears, rabbits and everything else in the woods.
Ponies are different. Here we have an animal that's been domesticated and returned to the wild. Low and behold -- it worked! They reverted to their instincts. they paw through the snow in the winter, they bed down in swamps and naturally seek shelter from the storms. Last winter, the snow was just so deep they couldn't move. What's amazing is that any of them survived.
The Wilburne Ridge Pony Association is supposed to give them some help when things get tough. I asked them repeatedly to meet me at Mount Rogers for this story, but my phone calls went unreturned. I was told by several people that the association is made of of about 12-15 people who are getting on in years and may not be able to really handle the adverse conditions that winter at 5,000 feet can dole out. Again -- I don't know for sure -- because I only had a brief conversation with one member who said he wasn't comfortable talking to the media.
What's clear is this. Wild or not -- the ponies are comfortable with people. Deer don't spend the night in your camping area, like the ponies did with one of the hikers I interviewed.
There is an enormous number of people who come to see these ponies, care about the ponies and want what's best for them.
Should they be rounded up and kept safe in a barn somewhere during the winter, or does that defeat the spirit of the "wild" herd.
Is there a better way to care for them in the winter? Could a more concerted effort be made? (I didn't say "should" because by many accounts it may not be possible despite the best of intentions.)
I don't have the answers. But I hope that by shining a light on these creatures in this story on FOX 21/27, that we all continue to talk about it.