Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Exotic" Animals?

Wednesday evening, about 8 pm, I was driving down Loop Road when I spied a critter scurrying along the ground, next to a fence. Even though I only caught a glimpse of the animal I knew it was unusual. It turned down a driveway, and I quickly maneuvered my car so my headlights gave me a clear view of this cat-sized creature with a naked, pinkish tail darting away and into the darkness.

It was a possum. That may not seem so unusual...except I had never heard of possums on Ocracoke. Maybe some of our island readers will share more news about possums on the island.

In the past a number of other animals have been introduced to Ocracoke, or found there way here by accident. Most are fairly new arrivals. They include:
  • nutria, or Russian rats (long-time residents of Ocracoke)
  • rabbits (they've been around quite a while also)
  • minks (they make appearances along the highway every now and then)
  • squirrels (they're all over the village...have been for about 10 years)
  • pheasants (I think our local hunters dispatched them some time ago)
  • deer (I haven't seen any in a few years, but they may survive)
  • racoons (apparently they found their way to the island several years ago)
  • bears (they swim over to Ocracoke once in a while, but, thankfully, never stay long)

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Sam Jones, Island Legend. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous7:13 AM

    Watch out Mr. may end up as #12 Road kill....I hope it's a "Mr." and not a "Mrs." Otherwise, you may be seeing a lot of possums in the future, Philip.

    With all the cats on the island and bowls of cat food sitting around, that possum will have plenty to eat. I learned (the hard way) not to leave food outside (scraps, pet food, etc) a few summers ago because a possum will quickly become a unwelcome guest!

    Does Lachlan ever "play possum"? :)

    Enjoy your "exotic" visitors!

  2. Anonymous8:45 AM

    Of course you forgot to mention the most exotic introduction to the island, "The Tourist!" These come in large numbers when they invade the island. The locals however have learned to enjoy them for the most part and have made concessions to make them feel comfortable. The tourist seems to be tolerable because they only come in the warmer months and allow the locals to recover during the winter.

  3. Anonymous9:11 AM

    Anon.#3 Now I'm curious-you say bears swim over to the island-from where?

  4. I'm told that Hyde Co. mainland (that's the county that Ocracoke is in) has as many, maybe more, bears per square mile than the Great Smokey Mountains. I don't know if this is true or not, but I do know that Hybe Co. has a large bear population...and black bears are known to be good swimmers. If they don't swim straight across (and remember, there are many shoals and sandbars to rest on) maybe they come from down around Cedar Island and make their way up Core Banks and across from Portsmouth Island.

    It's quite the talk of the village when a bear has been sighted here!

  5. What about snakes? What kinds are there on Ocracoke? Also,during our visit last November, we went to Springer's Point for the first time. It was so beautiful, but the weather was a little chilly, so it was quick trip. I'm looking forward to seeing it again when we come back in March. There was a rusty pipe sticking up out of the ground near the water. Do you have any idea what that might be?

  6. Anonymous10:41 AM

    (Anonymous #4) Is Ocracoke still a big attraction for hunters? If so what do they hunt mostly?

  7. Answers to questions:

    * We do have snakes -- small green snakes (they're cute and fun to pick up, but they do have a slight odor), Carolina water snakes (I've seen them at Springer's Point), black snakes, and others. I'm told that we do not have any resident populations of poisonous snakes, but that occassional cottonmouth water moccasins find their way to the island.

    *I'm not sure about the rusty iron pipe. I can't remember seeing it.

    *I think today is the last day of waterfowl hunting. Hunters come for ducks and geese. You can see a number of duck blinds out in the sound. Ocracoke has several native guides. Check here for more information:

  8. soulou1:08 PM

    Possums are routine here in Ill-my husband shot 6 of them this winter! We think they were wintering under our screen porch as they would make very wierd noises when we stepped out there. We finally turned the lights on our there and found each sitting on top of an old bench used as a winter platform birdfeeder. He slid open the sliding bedroom door and kaboom-4 in one night! Haven't seen any since. We have also had infestations of racoons and don't usually fill the feeders in the warmer months as they seem to be drawn to them. Thanks so much for the snow pics-it truly looked like a winter wonderland. Ours here has been wintry but not like NYC thankfully!

  9. Anonymous1:23 PM

    You are so right about the bear population. In addition to Hyde county, Beaufort county also has some black bears.

    Years ago, my mother-in-law, from Belhaven, noticed on display in a local restaurant, a "stuffed" black bear cub which was standing and had been made into a planter. The story goes a vehicle had hit the baby cub by accident and the owners of the restuarant decided to have the baby cub on display just as patrons entered the restaurant. It was quite a conversation starter. The bear stood in an upright positon and the front paws were able to hold a little shelf, I believe, and then a plant was put on it.

    My mother-in-law always wanted one for herself which I thought rather interesting! Oh well, just a memory to share. My goodness, and to think this discussion about bears (and other exotic critters) all came about because Philip spotted a possum on Ocracoke Island last Wednesday night! :)

  10. Anonymous2:04 PM

    Thanks for taking the time to give us all the great answers. The journal was really fun today. ANON. #4

  11. I was talking with Clifton Garrish this afternoon. He told me he's heard of a rattlesnake washing up on Ocracoke during a storm. I think it was dead. I don't think anyone needs to worry about poisonous snakes on the island. I've been tromping around in the marsh and wetlands many times without incident.

  12. Anonymous5:30 PM

    Are you still writing your second book and if so when will it be published? I enjoyed the last one very much.

  13. Anonymous7:08 PM

    May we have a moment of silence for the Opposums that were murdered in ILLinois. Possums eat rats, roof rats, cockroaches, bugs carrion --they are scavengers. I am shocked that this animal was shot. what a waste of ammunition. Too lazy to use a have-a heart cage and do the humane act. The plentiful food source allowed the animal to breed in the area the bird seed the short gestation period makes for a population boom if you are feeding them stop putting food out and THEY WILL LEAVE it is that simple.
    I feel sorry for the poster that felt the killing of a sitting duck was something to brag about. Now I guess disposing of the dead animals was a fun job or did you have a pot luck supper?

  14. Thank you for the kind words about my first book. I have been working on a second book (based on the Ocracoke Around Creek Ghost & History Tour), but I keep getting distracted by other projects. Maybe your comment will spur me on to more productive work. Thanks again.

  15. Anonymous9:11 PM

    If that's what it takes...I too loved DIGGING UP UNCLE EVANS & have been anxiously awaiting the sequel. Would it help if we all stopped bothering you with questions?

  16. There you go --- one more question to answer!

    No, don't stop asking questions. I'm happy to answer questions from folks who truly love Ocracoke and want to learn more about this great island and community.

    And...thanks for the compliment.

  17. Anonymous10:37 PM

    Yes Philip, get to work on that book. I can't wait to read more of your material! Thanks for all that you do to preserve the island's heritage and history.

  18. Anonymous9:34 AM

    That's funny! About a week ago we were sitting in the ferry line at Hatteras and I saw a possum run out from between some cars in front of me and run under the ferry office. It was strange that the possum would be out around several cars and people during the day.

  19. Anonymous10:12 AM

    A word of caution, based on the comment regarding the possum seen at the Hatteras ferry line: any wild animal (mammals only)displaying tame or less than wild tendencies needs to be avoided because of the possibility of rabies. Do not approach, catch, or pet any such critter. I don't know if rabies is as prevalent on the Outer Banks as it is here in the Piedmont but better safe than sorry.

  20. Anonymous1:46 PM

    Is here animal control services on the island? If the animal is rabid well the authorities ought to be involved as yes possums are carriers and well the disease could spread to other say domesticated animals -- err on the side of caution and alert the animal control officer to be on the alert. with twitter and facebook no doubt the location and whereabouts could be engaged to facilitate and quell any worries

  21. I agree...wild animals (especially ones that display unusual behavior) should be left alone. However, I am not aware of any cases or suspected cases of rabies on Ocraocke.

  22. Anonymous9:52 AM

    The only rabies I heard about were brought here by tourists.

    1. Anonymous9:52 AM

      Comments like this are why we stopped visiting your fair island 10 years ago and have moved further down the coast. I also live at the beach in Virginia and am thankful for the boost summer visitors give to our economy.

    2. Anonymous6:00 AM

      Womp Womp

  23. Anonymous11:31 AM

    the comment about the possum running about during daylight is highly irregular. nocturnal animals seen during the day can be a case of rabies as this animal behavior is not normal ---are they not seeking water ? if an animal in the early stages is developing a full blown case to be come rabid why wait-- at least monitor the situation instead of saying oh how cute a possum

  24. Anonymous12:22 PM

    Perhaps Peacocks would be a nice replacement to the pheasant or introduce turkeys. Or chickens does anyone offer fresh eggs for sale??

  25. A few islanders have chickens. If you know one of them you might have access to fresh eggs, but no one sells local eggs in the grocery stores. One of these days I'd like to have a few chickens myself.

  26. Sundae Horn10:09 AM

    Hey Philip,

    Surely you know that the correct word to describe a rattlesnake is "venomous," not "poisonous." People do eat rattlesnake meat. Ocracoke doesn't have a resident population of venomous snakes.

  27. Tou·ché, Sundae. Of course you are correct, though I am reminded of Humpty Dumpty: "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'" (Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll).

  28. I'm a native of north Carolina. Ocracoke island is as much mine as yours. You a re e welcome to my village anytime. I won't even have to recover!!

  29. Just go visit people! Don't be so worried!
    You have to play the lottery to win right?
    Ocracoke is one of my favorite places in the world! You will see.

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