Cute ponies might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about wildlife, but on Assateague and Chincoteague, barrier islands off the coast of Virginia and Maryland, the descendants of ponies brought by colonists in the 1600s roam freely through salt marshes, pine forests and windswept beaches.
Wild ponies are far from the only reason to visit. Assateague National Seashore and the neighboring Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge are a birder's paradise because of their location along the Atlantic Flyway, a major migratory bird flight path. Hiking, boating and kayaking are great ways to bird-watch here. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, foxes, opossum, otters, whales and dolphins, too.
Animal attacks: A note of caution
Before you venture out into the wilderness, do your research and know the risks. Though rare, wild animal attacks can and do happen, and different animals require different responses to protect yourself. For your own well-being and that of the wildlife you encounter, always maintain a safe distance -- no matter how cute or cuddly they may seem.
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