A Place to Be and Photograph This Summer

June 12, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

“Forget The Hamptons, Chincoteague Island Is The Place To Be This Summer”. I relate to this attention-getting 2014 headline and story from Forbes Magazine (see: https://www.forbes.com/sites/fathom/2014/07/26/forget-the-hamptons-chincoteague-island-is-the-place-to-be-this-summer/#4d0960e04622). I just returned from a week at Chincoteague and loved this Virginia Atlantic Coast destination.  The Assateague/Chincoteague wild ponies are beloved here, but Chincoteague is much more than wild ponies. It has clean uncluttered beaches, and even remote beach areas if you have an OSV, or Over Sand Vehicle permit (Google it); it has well-maintained biking and hiking trails; minimal coastal development; relaxed culture and lifestyle; the 14,000-acre pristine Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge providing many wildlife viewing and photography opportunities; great local seafood, and great people. Bottom line… there are definitely signs that Chincoteague is a wild-pony/family-centric tourist destination; yet it’s different, more varied, and relaxed than so many Atlantic Coast destinations.


The wild ponies are a fascination and loved by many visitors. They live in small herds and are distributed on both the Assateague National Seashore (a National Park) and in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  This means that pony herds are located in and can usually be seen in both Maryland and Virginia parts of Assateague and in the National Wildlife Refuge.


The population of horses in Maryland, are treated like any kind of wildlife, except they are on a managed birth control program. Beyond that, they’re not fed, unless an emergency arises, and are left to forage and fend for themselves. The population of the ponies in Virginia is controlled by an annual auction run by the Chincoteague Fire Department. The annual auction occurs after the ponies are rounded up and complete a swim across the Assateague Channel, (NOTE -- thousands visit the island to witness this). Before auction they get a check-up and some vaccinations by a veterinarian team. Other than this yearly check-up, the ponies live like any other wildlife, subsisting on marsh grasses and unaided by humans.


Veterinarians, biologists, firefighters, government employees, businesses, local residents, and compassionate and generous volunteers have all come together to manage, watch over, and help this species survive.


I spotted and photographed so many other stunning species and sites in the Wildlife Refuge and on Chincoteague Island. I linked a few of those photos to this post. While I traveled through the refuge, I heard more than a handful of visitors say they saw nothing. Because humans are known to wildlife as predators, and themselves the prey, you're not likely to see anything except the animals that have become accustomed to humans and learned not to fear them. Wildlife viewing is usually best when you just stop, get quiet, wait, and don't appear to be a threat. There are also better times in some seasons to see wildlife and the best wildlife viewing is usually in the early morning and later in the evening.  


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