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Wild horses on Sable Island appear safe after island struck by Fiona

The herd of wild horses inhabiting an isolated island that was directly in the path of post-tropical storm Fiona appear to have come through the extreme weather safely.

Sable Island, a small island around 300km southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a National Park Reserve, staffed by a handful of Parks Canada employees year round.

Around 500 wild horses have roamed the island freely since the 18th century — but as there is little natural protection for the horses on an island predominantly made up of dunes and grasslands, officials were worried that the storm could pose a threat to the horses.

On Sunday, Sable Island Institute (SIL) posted an update to their Facebook page, stating that they had heard from an employee on the island around 4 p.m. local time on Saturday.

“Everyone is fine, but there is a lot of wind damage and debris around the station to clean up, as well as some erosion that will prevent vehicles from checking the beaches for a while,” the post read. “She said that by late morning [Saturday], horses had emerged from sheltered areas and were grazing, grooming, and engaged in their usual activities.”

Sable Island Institute is a not-for-profit organization that supports programs on the island. One of their employees, as well as three Parks Canada personnel, were on the island during the storm, according to the Facebook post.

“The horses are pretty used to storms, they find shelter from the wind and blowing sand in the lee of dunes – there are plenty of hollows and high dune slopes in inland areas, and depending on the wind direction, the horses also huddle on the beach at the base of the dunes,” the post explained.

Personnel had apparently taken down their Starlink dish ahead of the storm to protect it, but were able to get in contact with the mainland after putting it back up when the winds had died down.

The horses are protected as wildlife by Parks Canada, along with a wide range of wild birds. Although the island does have tours for tourists, it is forbidden for anyone to approach or disturb the horses. Scheduled tours were cancelled ahead of the storm.

SIL explained in a comment on the post that although the island itself is very low, it didn’t become submerged during the storm because the large waves observed near some provinces couldn’t form there.

“Because of the gradual slope to the beaches, the waves would not be 100 ft high when they reach the shoreline.”

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