There were tense moments at Assateague Island National Seashore last week as two of the wild horses managed to cross the Rt. 611 Verrazano Bridge onto the mainland.

The two horses, known to pony fans as Starlight and Adrianna’s Happy Camper, got scared when cars pulled up to a ‘No Stopping, No Parking’ zone at the base of the east side of the bridge. According to the Assateague Island National Seashore, “These two wild horses were already in an excited and agitated state and were then stranded by visitors and vehicles. With their path of retreat to the island cut off, the horses fled to west over the bridge to the mainland.

The Rt. 611 Verrazano Bridge connects the Assateague Barrier Islands to the mainland. Image: Advocacy for Water/YouTube

Fortunately, Maryland National Park and State Park staff were able to safely corral the horses about half a mile from the bridge to the mainland. The two horses were loaded onto a trailer and returned safely to the island a few hours later. No horse or person was injured.

The National Seashore says this is a highly unusual incident and that vehicles stopping illegally immediately after the bridge are to blame.

In a Facebook post, they write: “The herding of these animals by visitors and vehicles thus blocking their movements and their path of retreat directly led to this incident. Park rules require visitors to stay at least 40 feet away from horses. Due to the narrow nature of the roadway, this is usually not possible at this location. It is illegal to stop and get out of your car on the roadway to see horses. Stopping on the roadway directly results in a dangerous situation for other vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, horses and park staff.

The National Seashore reminds everyone that the wild horses of Assateague are just that: wild. They urge visitors to the island to use common sense, treat the horses with respect and step back to give them their space.

“Treating wild horses like tame animals takes away the wildness that makes them so special.”

-Meg Walburn Viviano