Rescuers save wild horse, foal trapped by Lake Powell’s rising waters

The pair were taken to an animal sanctuary in Kanab.

(National Park Service) A wild horse and her foal, which were left stranded on a Lake Powell beach for weeks amid rising water levels, were rescued last week and taken to an animal sanctuary, National Park Service officials announced.

A wild horse and her foal that had been stranded on a Lake Powell beach for weeks as water levels increased were rescued and taken to an animal sanctuary last week, National Park Service officials announced.

The mother and baby horse were not in danger of being inundated by the lake’s rising waters, which are about 43 feet higher than they were in June 2022, according to a database of the lake’s levels. Instead, they were trapped in an area with little food and had “no way to escape on their own,” officials said in a news release.

Typically, a horse would be able to make the quarter-mile swim to an area with more food, park officials said. But they suspect that after giving birth, the mother stayed with her newborn until they were both too weak to make the trip.

Still, the animals were able to drink from the lake, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area staff had been monitoring and feeding the horses hay since at least June 7, park officials said.

The National Park Service typically does not interfere with wildlife, but the horses posed a safety concern due to the popularity of the beach for camping and boating, the news release stated.

After consulting with a local veterinarian, officials devised a plan to rescue the pair — a plan that was only possible because of the area’s proximity to a marina, the availability of a National Park Service boat that could accommodate a horse trailer, and the help of Best Friends Animal Society’s horse sanctuary in Kanab.

Together, a team of National Park Service staff, members of the Navajo Nation and horse sanctuary staff were able to sedate and move the animals, which were then taken to the Kanab sanctuary. But the mother horse didn’t make it easy, Jen Reid, the sanctuary manager, said.

(Best Friends Animal Society) A team attempts to guide a stranded wild horse and her foal into a horse trailer on a National Park Service boat at Lake Powell within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

When the horse was first hit with a tranquilizer dart, she didn’t take the sedation. Each time her foal would whinny, she would stand back up, Reid said.

“She’s a very good mama,” Reid said. “We had our plan A, and some ideas about plan B. We ended up going with plan C.”

Both now reside at the Best Friends sanctuary in Kanab, where they will be rehabilitated. Once the foal is weaned off its mother’s milk, they will be evaluated for adoption. If they cannot be adopted out, they will be kept at the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is well-versed in rehabilitating horses, but this was different, Reid said, adding that the rescue would not have been possible without teamwork.

“Rescuing one off a beach in Lake Powell?” Reid said. “Yeah, that’s definitely new.”

Currently, the horses are recovering and slowly adjusting to a nutrient-rich diet at the sanctuary. Staff has been relatively hands-off so far, Reid said, since the horses aren’t used to human company yet.

However, sanctuary staff have named the pair. The mother is called Emma B., after John Powell’s wife — the man whom Lake Powell is named after. The foal is named Marina, to commemorate their boat ride.