Ocracoke is a wonderfully diverse place in many ways, especially considering the humans who live here. They really are a quite interesting bunch of folks. But what about the other animals? There are birds aplenty, and sea creatures galore, of course. However we don't have many other wild mammals.
There are ferral cats (under some control thanks to OcraCats), and rodents. We even have large "Russian rats" (nutria) that must have arrived on the island with some of our mariners years ago. A neighbor (who will remain nameless) released two squirrels a few years ago, so now we see them scurrying up the trees now and then. And another resident (who has moved away) let two minks loose some time ago. We only see them rarely.
But we don't have possums, or racoons (there are plenty of them on Portsmouth Island, just across the inlet), or porcupines, or skunks, or bears (although I believe Hyde County has a larger bear population density than any other county in North Carolina).
Several years ago, for the first time ever, we began to hear reports of deer on Ocracoke. They are good swimmers and we guessed that they arrived by navigating Hatteras Inlet. Occassionally I would see deer tracks in the clearings between the oceanside dunes and Highway 12, so I knew the scattered reports were accurate.
Then several days ago, in the crepuscular minutes of early morning, while driving to catch a 6:00 a.m. ferry, Amy, Lisa, & I were startled to see a doe and her fawn dart across the road and freeze for a moment in the undergrowth. We nearly hit them.
So now I know for sure that there are deer on the island. I wonder how much longer it will be before their numbers increase sufficiently that sightings become commonplace. And how long will it take for them to evolve into a distinct sub-species, like the key deer in Florida. We'll just have to wait and see.
Our current monthly Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke's Street Names, published November 19, 2005. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news111905.htm.