What will happen to the wild horses affected by Fiona?

The crescent-shaped Sable Island in the North Atlantic is home to a herd of wild horses and will also likely be a target of then-Hurricane Fiona.

The storm, characterized as “historic” in magnitude by forecasters, made landfall on Saturday morning, bringing gale-force winds and more than 100 millimeters of rain across much of the region and eastern Quebec. More than 200 millimeters of rain is expected to fall, which could result in some roads being washed out.

In its latest update, the Canadian Hurricane Center said the storm is moving north and is expected to reach waters off Nova Scotia late Friday before moving over Cape Breton early Saturday.

Sable Island National Park Reserve in Nova Scotia is a narrow strip of dunes and grasslands, with some 500 horses that have roamed it since the 18th century.

They have become synonymous with the romantic and untamed image of the island and are protected as wildlife by Parks Canada under Canada’s National Parks Act.

A small team of four officials is preparing to take refuge on the island, and all scheduled tourist flights have been cancelled. According to a statement from Parks Canada representative Jennifer Nicholson, team members have been actively securing supplies and machinery to reduce potential damage.

However, there is almost little natural protection or shade for the horses on the island; they are not native to the sandbank and are believed to have been introduced by European sailors in the 18th century.

“In terms of horses, wet, windy, cold weather can pose challenges to the population, which is not uncommon for many wildlife species,” Nicholson said.

While Nicholson did not outline specific plans for conservation efforts, he said “horses act instinctively and seek refuge in groups in the lee of the dunes for protection.”

“Over the last two centuries, Sable Island horses have adapted remarkably well to their environment,” he added.

The number of horses on Sable Island is not under the direct supervision or active management of Parks Canada, unlike other wildlife in national parks. Laws prohibit anyone from approaching, harming, or disturbing the horses on Sable Island and prohibit anyone from feeding them.

The coastal areas of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are expected to experience strong waves, with waves reaching more than 10 meters off Nova Scotia and more than 12 meters in the eastern parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

In addition to significant storm surge and the potential for flooding in coastal and inland areas, the storm is expected to cause widespread power outages due to downed trees and power poles in high winds.

“Those who will remain on Sable Island are well used to weathering storms on Sable Island. Fortunately, we have a generator on site and the power lines are underground, which means we don’t have to worry about the power going out,” Nicholson said.

“However, due to heavy rain, thick cloud cover or shaking of satellite dishes, a loss of communications is expected for a short period of time. Team members on the island have access to portable satellite phones for emergencies and will initiate a protocol for regular updates to their colleagues on the mainland.”

With archives from The Canadian Press and Reuters

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