By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Kupa, one of the last dozen descendants of San Diego's heritage herd, has died of a rattlesnake bite. His owner is asking the County to protect the remaining herd descedants under the County's MultipleSpecies Conservation Plan.
April 17, 2023 (San Diego’s East County) – Kupa, one of only a dozen descendants of San Diego’s heritage herd of wild horses, has died. Kathleen Hayden made the announcement “with a breaking heart” on Facebook yesterday, stating that “during the night, our four-year-old Coyote Canyon stallion, Kupa, was bitten in his eye by a rattlesnake and died.”
Hayden is cofounder of Coyote Canyon Caballos d’Anza, a nonprofit in Santa Ysabel. For years, she and her foundation have been fighting to gain protection for the heritage herd. The federal government has long refused to recognize horses as native species worthy of protection, believing they were brought here by European explorers.
But on March 23, 2023, Science published a report by 84 researchers who concluded that horses evolved first in North America and later crossed a land bridge over the Bering Strait to Eurasia. There are ancient fossils found in the Anza Borrego desert and Carlsbad predating the early Spanish and English explorers to bolster that claim, as well as references to Native American horses in writings of Sir Francis Drake in 1580.
Those findings have reignited the urgent call to save wild horses and try to repopulate San Diego’s heritage herd on public lands, before it is too late.