Sunday, February 24, 2013

A True Story

You may have read about the species of French catfish that lurks at the edge of the river and captures pigeons. If not, here is a YouTube video about this amazing adaptation:

A couple of years ago I was walking on the Hammock Hills Nature Trail (across the highway from the NPS campground). On the boardwalk over Island Creek I noticed a blue heron feeding along the shoreline. Then I noticed a nutria (Ocracokers call this critter a Russian Rat), an invasive, herbivorous, semi-aquatic rodent, creeping up behind the heron. While I watched, the nutria jumped up, lunged at the heron, and almost grabbed it by the leg!

Photo by Peleg

Nutria are herbivores (they feed on grass and other plants). What was it doing attacking a heron? I will probably never know. Will wonders never cease?

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the unique"Ocracoke Greeting." You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous9:32 AM

    I would not do well as national geographic photographer I would have shouted at the non native invasive species to warn the heron. However I grew up having read Bill Peet's childrens book about a capabara a relative of the nutria ( I think folks in LA eat them) LA not lower alabama but Louisiana any way the book is delightful

  2. Anonymous12:26 PM

    In 2010 I was surprised to see what I thought were two mink along the creek across from the Park campground on Ocracoke. I took a series of photographs and later took them to the Hanging Rock State Park office near where I live close to Greensboro, NC. They confirmed that the mammals were indeed mink. They gave me the following information which I have condensed to get my point across.

    Like the river otter, the mink is a semi­aquatic mammal that frequently occupies coastal marshes, but it too is not restricted to this environment. The diet of the mink is more varied and is likely to include marsh as well as shorebirds and rodents along with fish and crustaceans.

    During the 2012 season the Dept of Wildlife Predator Management Team removed a total of 594 targeted species from in Dare and Hyde counties including: 130 raccoons, 111 opossums, 8 mink, 47 nutria, 5 gray fox, 2 coyote and 9 red fox. Additionally, 61 feral cats captured in live-cages were taken to the Dare County SPCA for adoption.

    According to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Predator Management annual report 8 mink were removed from the established island population along with terrestrial turtle by-catch. Mink trapping efforts were being conducted to help protect shorebird nesting including the piping plover. Mink will attack herons, crows, even feral cats if they thought that they could get away with it. Maybe this is what you saw during your walk. If not well, now you know that there are mink on ocracoke.

    1. Yes, we have mink on the island. They were introduced about 35-40 years ago. We see them periodically. As you note, we also have raccoons, opossums, and squirrels, as well as nutria. I do know the difference between nutria and mink, and I am almost certain it was a nutria, but I might have been mistaken (I have been wrong before!). Who knows, maybe it was a mink.

  3. Bear MacDonald6:00 PM

    Iv'e always thought of nutria as being very docile creatures. Maybe it was a nutria, maybe a mink, I'm no one to say.

    I've also heard that nutria are very destructive to the wetland ecosystem. Have hou seen or heard of them causing much damage on Ocracoke or Pamlico Sound?

    Hope to see you sometime during this year.

    1. Bear, I am not an environmental scientist, although I have also heard that nutria are bad for wetlands. That may be so, but I am not aware of any specific or significant damage they have done on Ocracoke.

  4. Anonymous9:28 AM

    Would it not be the Overpopulation of a non native invasive- no natural predators-- to keep the population in check- that would contribute to a negative environmental impact. Hunters kill the biggest deer thus compromising the gene pool for future generations.

    1. I am sure that is a factor.

    2. Anonymous8:54 PM

      " Hunters kill the biggest deer thus compromising the gene pool for future generations"

      Generations of deer hunters would prove you wrong.

    3. Anonymous1:04 PM

      :-) don't ya just hate facts?