Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131
February 1, 2011
For Valentine's, Fall in Love with Nature on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
If you’re looking for something to do with your sweetheart this month for Valentine’s Day, why not head out to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge? Join refuge staff for our Saturday, February 12 open-air tram tour from 9 am until noon as we catch a glimpse of winter on the refuge, or go exploring on your own any day during daylight hours. February is a great month to fall in love with Nature!
Have you ever thought about what wild animals do during the cold? Many species of waterfowl migrate to the refuge during the fall and winter to enjoy the hospitality of the staff and their management techniques. The impoundments, moist soil units, and croplands provide places for birds to eat and rest up before they migrate further south or return north in the spring. While these intensely managed areas serve up a great banquet for waterfowl, much of the other refuge habitat is pocosin and other forested wetlands.
Pocosins are interesting areas with saturated organic soils made up of peat or muck from a few inches to several feet deep; other wetland types offer distinct varieties of plant and animal life. We’ll see a variety of habitats along the Wildlife Drive, including communities of pine, hardwoods, or Atlantic white cedar. With many trees void of leaves, we’re able to view deeper into the usually dense forest and possibly spot a bobcat or other mammal. Mixed in with the trees are many evergreen shrubs with names like wax myrtle, redbay, swamp redbay, fetterbush, gallberry, inkberry, and ti-ti. Those shrubs provide important cover for wildlife year-round, but serve to protect them from bone-chilling winds in the winter. They also provide food for the animals.
Even somewhat nondescript plants along the roadside can help small birds and mammals by protecting them with their fluffy seed heads. Mammals are also active in the winter especially on warmer, sunny days. Otters swim in canals and ditches. Many vines and bushes that humans might consider nuisance plants because of their briars or poisonous characteristics are nutritious components of nature’s buffet. Owls and hawks are hunting on roadsides and in crop fields for rodents. Raccoons and opossums scurry through the brush and trails. Deer browse the twigs and bark of trees and shrubs. Since black bears aren’t deep sleepers in this part of the state, we might see one as it lumbers through the woods and crop fields in search of grain and berries.
Join us for the tram tour, and afterwards, why not take a stroll along one of the refuge wildlife trails? Or, drive out to the refuge, ride the Wildlife Drive, or walk a trail on your own! You’re sure to be entertained by a wide diversity of birds flitting in and out of the shrubs, picking seeds and berries, and pecking into dead trees for insects. Even if you don’t encounter any wildlife, you’re sure to find evidence that they were in the area. Be on the lookout for scat, tracks and other signs along the trails. Bring your sweetheart or come alone! You’ll find the refuge in winter is a wonderful place to fall in love with wildlife. For the tram tour, meet at Creef Cut Wildlife Trail at 9:00am for the 3-hour tour. For more information, call 252-475-4180. No reservations are necessary for this FREE tour. Be sure to dress for the weather since this is an open-air tram!