Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
205 S Ludington Drive, Columbia, NC, USA
www.fws.gov/refuge/pocosin_l… - (252) 796-3004
Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Columbia Reviews
Wild, Wild Life Jun 06, 2015
The remote and undeveloped area does not make for a tourist attraction, but Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge leads by example in providing habitats for native species. Among their innovative management practices, I was particularly struck by the deal they strike with local farmers. While it may sound odd for farming to be allowed within a refuge, land is offered for planting soybeans or corn at no cost. The farmers only need to forego harvesting 20% of their crops, providing forage for guests of the refuge!
The success is clearly evident, with the substantial black bear population nurtured during the tenure of the operation. It began as Pungo National Wildlife Refuge in 1963, merging with the Pocosin Refuge in 1990 to form a sanctuary of over 110,000 acres. The habitat is largely brackish swamp – Pocosin is a Native America word for “swamp of a hill”. While that tidbit does not bode well for tourist traffic, it obviously creates a magnet for bio-diversity.
You won’t be surprised to learn alligators are also residents, but featured guests include endangered red wolves and magnificent tundra swans. Pocosin Lakes is a major flyway and migratory fowl flock here in great numbers. Plenty of hawks and eagles abound, as well as another endangered species, the red-cockaded woodpecker.
Opportunities for sampling this wealth of nature are numerous – perhaps explaining its inclusion on the “Charles Kuralt Trail.“ You can almost drive right up to Hyde Point Observation Point to view waterfowl (just a short walk from a parking lot, closed November through February to prevent disturbance). There is also the elevated Pungo Lake Observation Platform (actually visited by Charles) and several other prime viewing spots.
Of course we just bounced down the gravel roads in our bus, but a grand experience. Eileen, a biologist at the Refuge, hopped aboard once we entered the grounds and educated us how black bears are so big they really are not afraid of much, and naturally curious. Her lesson was quickly reinforced as we drove past a few corn fields. Hearing our bus, the bears would pop up out of the stalks as we motored past! It was amusingly reminiscent of whack-a-mole, lol.
We stopped several times for brief foot tours (black bears are not aggressive towards humans, so no precautions necessary), exploring a tree clawed by black bears as a territorial marker and identifying some bobcat prints. A really informative and fun exploration which I recommend if you attend the Black Bear Festival next year!
Part of the North Carolina travel blog
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