Creatures are Much Closer Than You Think



Nature surrounds you daily.  The loud honks of a gaggle of geese heard from a distance, the sight of red wings fluttering by, or an animal track discovered relatively close to a door. Creatures are much closer than you think.

The Drastic Changes of the Forest

In the region of the Piedmont Triad, 75% of the land was once forest. The canopy comprised of hardwood species such as white, black, and southern red oaks, pignut, shagbark, and mockernut hickorys, red maples, shortleaf and loblolly pines, dogwoods, and hawthorn species contributed to the understory before it became land for farmers.  Less than 50% of the forest remains due to the difficulty of converting rocky areas to agricultural fields.  As the forest transitioned to new shopping malls, residences, and roads, new animal tracks and birds ventured toward the civilized world. And continue to do so. Do not be surprised if one day you see a:

Black Bear

While coastal North Carolina is home to the most massive black bear populations weighing in at over 850 pounds, the Piedmont Triad and surrounding areas are either seeing evidence of the animal or seeing the actual animal.  Bears, which typically live in large forested areas, will leave in search of food.  The ideal place? Human communities.  Highly skillful, they are capable of opening screw-top jars and manipulating door latches.  Bears can move heavy objects weighing over 325 pounds and run at speeds of 30 mph.

A paw print can assist you in determining its size. For instance, a five-inch-long paw print equates an average weight between 150 to 175 pounds. Seven inches suggests the bear weighs up to 400 pounds.  The average weight of a male is 500 pounds.

Bobcat

The U.S Endangered Species Act changed the threat of the bobcat in North Carolina.  Outside of farming locations, sightings of the bobcat increase.  Adaptable as a species, it thrives in wooded habitats off our coastal region and mountains; however, it will den in locations where there are hollowed trees, rock or brush piles, or uprooted trees.  While excelling in running, climbing, and swimming, it uses its retractable paws and long, sharp teeth to seize prey of birds, snakes, and animals ranging in size from rodents to deer. Bobcats hunt in daylight and at night. Two to four kittens are usually born in May. Although it has a short tail, about five inches in length, the fur is short and often reddish-brown on its back. Adults are twice the size of a domestic cat.

Coyote

In the night, a high-pitched scream lasting approximately five seconds may be mistaken for a human; instead, it could be a pair of coyotes. The Piedmont Triad has a healthy coyote population.  Adaptable to all environments, they can be seen in the deep woods or walking down a populated street seeking a food source.  As omnivores, they enjoy just about everything, from fruits and insects to small animals, turkeys, white-tailed deer, and road kill.  And they are not afraid to scrounge through trash cans!  Similar in size to a house dog, ranging from 15 to 50 pounds, coyotes have sharply pointed ears, which never drop, a pointed nose, and a bushy tail. Coyotes will breed with domestic dogs.

River Otter

The desire to see otters may not require a trip to a zoo. Otters, usually found in pairs, love habitats associated with fresh water; therefore, you may discover otters in a shallow creek or stopping by your koi pond before seeking a lake or large pond in search of cold water, fish, and shellfish. Otters are sleek black, similar to seals; however, they can reach up to four feet in length.  One distinguishing characteristic is its long-pointed tail.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

The population of red-cockaded woodpeckers is on the upswing since it became an endangered species.  From 30 family groups in the early 1990s to 63, the best time to see it is in May, during the nesting season.  They typically create a nest in a mature loblolly pine tree. Male birds remain to aid in raising one to four young.

Roughly the same size as a cardinal, the most distinguishing features are white patches on its cheeks, a black stripe, which runs from the beak and over the top of its head, and white horizontal stripes on its back.

We must learn to share our environment with a wide range of creatures.  Consider their plight and plant wildflowers and any number of our native trees. While some animals are unlikely to diminish in numbers, we can assist the wild range of visitors in search of a comfortable habitat.


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