Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
Management Activities
Mother bear and three cubs walking on a gravel road
What are we doing for endangered species?
In 1973, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act. The purposes of this Act are to conserve the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend and to provide programs to protect such species. According to the Act, endangered and threatened species are of aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is instrumental in providing protection and recovery efforts for endangered and threatened species. Two endangered species found on Pocosin Lakes NWR are the red wolf and the red-cockaded woodpecker.

Red wolf being released


Red Wolf
The refuge has been working on re-introducing red wolves (Canis rufus) to the wild in efforts to prevent extinction of the species and to restore the habitat in which red wolves once occurred. On the brink of extinction, the eastern North Carolina red wolf population had been eliminated from the wild and the total population was believed to be less than 100 individuals.

Through the cooperation of many agencies, private organizations and local citizens, the red wolf numbers are slowly increasing and there are now close to 100 animals in their native habitat in eastern North Carolina.

Red-cockaded woodpecker
The red-cockaded woodpecker makes its home in mature pine forests. Long- leaf pines (Pinus palustris) are most commonly preferred, but other species of southern pine are also acceptable. While other woodpeckers bore out cavities in dead trees where the wood is rotten and soft, the red-cockaded woodpecker is the only one which excavates cavities exclusively in living pine trees. Cavities generally take from 1 to 3 years to excavate. The red-cockaded woodpecker plays a vital role in the intricate web of life of the southern pine forests. Refuge management for this woodpecker includes protecting nest trees, inventory of the population and providing mature trees for future nests.

Red Cockaded Woodpecker perched on side of tree

Hooded Mergansers

Water Management
Water control is a key tool for managing the pocosin habitat and other habitats used by migratory birds and waterfowl. Lakes, marshes, moist soil areas, and open water provide a resting area as well as a feeding area for waterfowl. Diving ducks, such as the canvasback can feed in deep waters. Dabbing ducks, such as the wood duck can only feed in 12 inches (or less) of water. Another important aspect of water management on the refuge is the prevention of flooding of adjacent private lands and habitats.

The refuge staff manages its resources through protection of lands from wildfires, water management, cooperative farming, law enforcement, restoration of native habitat, removal of invasive species, public hunting, environmental education/interpretation, and partnerships with other agencies.

Wildfire Protection and Suppression
A large portion of the refuge was ditched and drained, then cleared to support farming. The altered state of the soils made the lands more susceptible to disastrous wildfires during periods of hot, dry weather. The refuge staff and its cooperators work quickly to suppress wildfires to prevent them from growing into large, catastrophic fires like ones seen in past years. The fire management program has also enhanced habitat through prescribed burning of selected areas.

Fire being spread by fire personnel

A small prescribed burning being watched closely by personnel
Prescribed Burning

While fire during time of drought can damage the organic soils of the pocosin, fire is a very useful tool for habitat management when used under appropriate weather conditions. Fire will release nutrients back into the soil, remove undesirable vegetation, and stimulate growth of early successional plants that are eaten by a variety of wildlife. It also serves as a tool to prevent large wildfires from occurring. Once a prescribed burn has occurred, the fuels from the land will have burned and will not burn again, or will not burn as intensively compared to lands that were not burned.
Black Bear Studies
The refuge has an ongoing black bear study in coordination with Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and Virginia Tech graduate students. The refuge is collecting data on black bears to determine population and genetics of the studied population.
Bear Study Preparation
Last Updated: 5/8/13