He had a slight discoloration on his forehead that looked like a question mark and had earned him the name Jester from park rangers on Assateague Island.
The 18-year-old stallion with a chestnut colored coat was killed by an SUV Thursday evening as he roamed in his favorite area along the main road into the national seashore, officials said.
The crash happened around 8 p.m. when a 2005 Honda Element fatally struck Jester. It was driven by a 70-year-old woman from Silver Spring, Md. She wasn’t injured.
Jester was known for being around the area of State Highway 611, which is the main road into Assateague on the Delmarva coast.
“That was Jester’s home range,” said Walt West, chief ranger at Assateague, which is part of the National Park Service. “For many people, Jester would have been one of the first horses they would have seen upon entering the park.”
Park officials said they think Jester liked to travel near the roadway because that is where he was foaled. “He was familiar with that area of the park,” West said.
Assateague is known for its free-ranging herd of wild horses, which numbers 79.
Thirty-one horses have been struck and killed by vehicles since 1982, when such deaths began to be recorded, park officials said. Another 17 have been struck, but survived.
Along the main highway into the park, there are signs reminding visitors to slow down and look for wildlife. The Assateague and Chincoteague islands are known for an annual pony swim in the summer. Dozens of wild ponies swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island in Virginia.
The swim draws thousands of visitors from across the country. It grew in popularity over the years and became well-known because of Marguerite Henry’s 1947 novel “Misty of Chincoteague,” which later became a movie.
The crash involving Jester remains under investigation, authorities said. No charges have been filed and the driver remained at the scene.
Jester is believed to have died of internal injuries. He was dead when park rangers arrived.
Of Jester’s passing, West said, “it certainly is felt throughout the staff at Assateague and to the visiting public.”
“There are a number of people who keep up with the horses remotely who many do not get a chance to visit,” West said. Losing Jester, he said, “this ripple goes through a number of communities.”
In an email, Deborah A. Darden, superintendent at Assateague Island National Seashore, in Berlin, Md., described Jester as a “handsome and well-known horse.”
She said “all of the staff here are so saddened at his death.”