Hazel, a Corolla wild horse well known to the area, was found dead in the same weekend as the heat index reached near 110 degrees.
"Hazel lived and died as every wild horse should - free, and on her own terms," the Corolla Wild Horse Fund wrote on Facebook. "We will miss seeing her on the beach but take comfort in knowing she lived a great life and left a huge mark on the herd."
The fund wrote that Hazel enjoyed her role as an "honorary grandmother" to foals from various groups – or harems – of the horses. The group identified several of Hazel’s offspring as well, and they "expect to find more" as they continue to collect DNA samples from the herd.
Around 100 horses roam in the Corolla herd and have adapted to eating sea oats, persimmons, acorns and other native grasses on the island, the News & Observer reported.
The horses often meet tragic ends, usually due to the residents on the island: traffic accidents and choking on food given by tourists are the most common causes.
Hazel’s first mate, Amadeo, had to be removed from the wild during a rescue operation.
Hazel was laid to rest near Penny’s Hill, where she lived.