During the warm summer months, Cherry Point residents and guests are advised to remain aware of the vast array of wildlife that lives on and around the air station. Personnel here may encounter many species of wild animals, not just in wooded areas, but also in residential and even operational areas of the air station. These encounters can include bears, alligators, snakes, turtles, deer and foxes, to name a few.
The Natural Resource Division of the Environmental Affairs Department here reminds patrons: do not feed wild animals. Natural food sources are plentiful this time of year in their natural habitat. You can avoid attracting dangerous animals by removing potential food sources such as pet food, outdoor grill residue, compost piles and bird feeders by securing them in buildings or with a secure latching system.
Feeding animals, intentionally or otherwise, can be dangerous, and in some cases, illegal.
Wildlife officials here point out that snakes are the most reported wildlife encounter this time of year, but bear and alligator sightings certainly can make for an exciting day! Due to the adaptable nature of black bears and improved management by wildlife agencies, black bear populations are increasing and bear range is expanding in North Carolina.
Cherry Point ponds and waterways are home to alligators as well. Like other potentially dangerous wildlife, they are best observed from a distance and should never be fed. Feeding an animal or creating a situation where an alligator has easy access to food (such as feeding waterfowl or dumping fish/crabs) may cause the animal to associate people with an easy meal. Feeding, harassing or killing of alligators in North Carolina is illegal and is punishable by fines and penalties. Only authorized wildlife biologists and conservation officers can remove problem alligators. In most instances, it is not necessary to do anything other than leave an alligator alone. If you encounter an alligator, give the animal a wide berth and avoid any interaction. Do nothing that would put you or the animal at risk.
Finally, be cautious with snakes and turtles, and courteous to them on the road. Like deer and other wildlife, their biggest threat is a careless human driver – far too many of these innocent creatures are unnecessarily killed on the road.
To report an imminent threat or a problem with a bear, alligator, snake or other wildlife, contact the Conservation Law Enforcement Office at (252) 466-3242.
More about bears and other wild animals
In eastern North Carolina, healthy black bear populations exist within National Forests, State Game Lands, timber company lands and large privately owned tracts of land. The allure of coastal living is bringing more development pressures within coastal counties and as a result, bears and people are coming into contact with each other more frequently. Many citizens of North Carolina wish to see bears continue to thrive in the state. The challenge is to learn how problems with bears can be avoided in residential areas that are in or near bear habitat. Cherry Point is in or near bear habitat and it is not uncommon for seasonal bear movements to bring bears and humans into conflict on Cherry Point. The most frequent time of year for bear human conflicts is during late spring and early summer.
The following information is modified from outreach materials provided by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
How to prevent and/or resolve bear conflicts (note: this guidance can apply to other wildlife as well)
1. Do not feed bears! Feeding bears rewards them for coming into residential areas. Bears feeding on unnatural food sources around your home may lose their fear of humans and will be more likely to approach people – a situation that rarely ends well for the bear and could have potential safety issues for humans as well!
2. Remove or secure all potential food sources!
· Store garbage inside buildings or other areas that bears cannot get to.
· If the area is served by a garbage collection service, place garbage and recyclables out only during the day of collection.
· Bear-proof your existing garbage container by outfitting it with a secure latching system.
3. Do not leave pet foods out overnight. If pets are fed outside, remove any excess food after the animals have finished eating. Never store pet food on a porch or in an open garage where a bear can get to it.
4. Clean outdoor grills. After you use an outdoor grill clean it thoroughly and make sure that all grease and fat residues are removed.
5. Compost piles attract bears. Although there usually isn't much food available in compost piles, the odor is enough to draw the interest of a curious bear. Avoid putting pasta or oils in a compost pile.
6. Remove bird feeders and hummingbird feeders if bears are in area.
· Do not hang bird feeders from your house or deck.
· Suspend feeder from a free-hanging wire away from your home, making sure it is at least 10 feet off the ground and at least 10 feet away from the trunk of a tree.
· Bring bird feeders indoors at night.
· Make bird feeder inaccessible to bears.
7. Alert neighbors of a bear sighting and ensure that no one is intentionally or unintentionally feeding black bears. One person feeding bears can create a problem bear that may affect the entire neighborhood.
8. Repellents. There are no repellents that are registered for use on bears. Some have found that sprinkling ammonia or other strong disinfectants on garbage can mask the odor of food.
9. Exclusion. Make sure dumpsters are bolted and locked and chain down heavy metal garbage cans and secure the lids. Wood or plastic dumpster lids do not keep bears out. Replace these with metal lids that can be locked and make sure sliding side doors can be latched so only humans can open them.
Fencing in dumpsters or garbage collection areas can be very effective.
Why not move the bear?
This would simply move the problem, rather than solve it. The solution is to modify your habits and prevent bears from being attracted to your home and neighborhood. Most conflicts do not warrant trapping. For example, a bear simply being in a neighborhood is not necessarily threatening or cause for trapping. In most cases, people are the cause of the problem and the best long-term solution involves removal of attractants (bird feeders, unsecured garbage) rather than destruction of the bear.
Simply catching every bear that someone sees is not an option; we have no remote places left to relocate bears where they will not come into contact with humans. Relocated bears often return to the place they were originally captured. The process of catching bears is difficult, and can be more dangerous for the bear, the public and those involved in the capture. It is best to let the bear take its natural course out of the neighborhood or city.
More about snakes
The largest concern for this time of year from a Cherry Point environmental standpoint is snakes. The majority of nuisance calls for wildlife are for snakes. Wildlife officials respond to all calls that they receive. Unfortunately by the time they arrive on scene, the snake is usually gone.
One of the things that they ask individuals is to keep eyes on the animal so that their response is affective and they are not trying to search for a snake. People should only call if the animal appears to be a real threat. Most snakes, including venomous ones, are not aggressive unless threatened. Like any wildlife, avoidance is your best defense.
Residents can easily familiarize themselves with dangerous snakes (and other wildlife) through basic internet searches. Examples of web sites that show and describe venomous snake species in North Carolina include http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/venomousnake.htm and https://sites.google.com/site/venomousdangerous/snakes/north-america-s-most-venomous-snakes.