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CoastLine: Black bears, alligators, feral swine, and venomous snakes populate SE NC and can coexist peacefully with humans

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Jeff Hall / NC WRC
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Black bears, feral swine, alligators, and snakes — venomous and nonvenomous — are living in the Cape Fear region. There's nothing to fear from the local wildlife, say state biologists, but there's a lot to learn.

It’s common knowledge that black bears, coyotes, feral swine, and snakes – of the venomous and nonvenomous varieties – roam the mountainous and more rural parts of North Carolina. But North Carolina wildlife experts tell us that all of these species also live in the southeastern corner of the state.

In fact, the black bear population is thriving in the Cape Fear region; wildlife biologists report more encounters between people and black bears in coastal North Carolina as people move to the area and build houses on what was habitat. It was a bear from coastal North Carolina that set the world record for heaviest black bear.

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Feral swine are no longer protected; in fact, NC officials are working to eradicate them from the state.

Feral swine, previously known as the protected Wild Boar, have been in North Carolina since the early 1500s -- imported by European explorers as a reliable source of meat. But in the early 2000s, state biologists changed their opinion on these animals -- determining them to be so destructive that a Feral Swine Task Force is now working to eradicate them from the wild.

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Jeff Hall, NC WRC
Deriving its common name from its coppery brown head, the copperhead also is known by such local names as “pilot,” “chunkhead,” “poplar leaf” and “highland moccasin.” The copperhead is a rather heavy-bodied snake with an average adult length between 2 and 3 feet.

North Carolina has almost 40 species of snake, but only about 6 of those species are venomous. However, even the venomous ones have an important role to play in the ecosystem. For example, feeding on rodents helps keep Lyme Disease in check.

Coastal North Carolina is the northern extent of the alligator habitat range, and it’s been difficult to get a handle on how many live in the state. They’re a long-lived species, and it can take 20 years in North Carolina for a female to reach the age when she can reproduce. But there’s no guarantee that she will even if she reaches that age.

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Alicia Davis, NC WRC

They also grow more slowly here than they do farther south so it takes years to gather data. Coastal residents of the human kind regularly see alligators in their neighborhood retention ponds in the warmer months and have been known to find them on the front porch – specifically in some of the more recently-developed neighborhoods in Leland, which is part of Brunswick County.

But are they dangerous to people? When should they be removed from neighborhoods?

Guests:

Alicia Davis, Alligator Biologist, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Falyn Owens, Extension Wildlife Biologist, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Resources:

Tips for coexisting with alligators:

https://www.ncwildlife.org/News/wildlife-resources-commission-provides-tips-to-coexist-with-alligators

Snakes of North Carolina app:

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/snakes-of-north-carolina/id940870626

NC Wildlife Helpline for any questions about wildlife:

https://www.ncwildlife.org/have-a-problem

866-318-2401

How to live responsibly with black bears:

https://bearwise.org/

What to know about feral swine in North Carolina:

https://www.ncferalswine.org/

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Rachel hosts and produces WHQR's local public affairs and variety show, CoastLine, which she helped to create. Before joining WHQR, Rachel wrote and produced local TV newscasts for the Wilmington ABC-TV affiliate. She also wrote and produced a 30-minute TV special program for the Cape Fear Museum showcasing its renovation and new exhibits, and she independently wrote and produced a documentary on the lingering effects of the 1898 coup d'etat in Wilmington.