It took a while, but the Corolla Wild Horse Fund (CWHF) has finally solved the mystery of its "harem hopping" mare, Hazel.
Hazel's habit of abandoning her harem for extended periods first caught the attention of herd manager Meg Puckett last year.
"Hazel is an older mare and spends 99% of her time with Junior and his other two mares," Puckett wrote on CWHF's Facebook page. "But last year we noticed that she would leave them for weeks at a time and 'harem hop' around to the other groups."
It wasn't until last week, when Puckett spotted Hazel napping with a new foal named Bridget while her parents grazed, that the reason for the senior horse's excursions dawned on her.
"She's going to visit the babies!" Puckett wrote.
"Hazel did the same thing after Alejandra was born last fall and has visited with Betsy this spring too. There is no question that these horses form lifelong bonds with each other, have unique personalities, and communicate between the different harems."
Puckett told McClatchy News that Hazel is among the oldest in the Outer Banks herd.
"We have identified one offspring (of Hazel) so far, a mare in her late teens. That would make Hazel at least 22-25 years old," Puckett said. "Not sure how many total foals she's had over the years yet, but assuming it was quite a few. It's not entirely unusual for the mares to switch harems from time to time, but not like Hazel does. She is very independent."
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