Lots of different animals make their home in the Croatan. Most of times you will
not see them while hiking as they tend to avoid humans.
I usually see White Tail Deer and Turkeys while hiking. On occasion I have seen a
snake on the trail but I have yet to see a poisonous one while hiking.
While I have not seem them, I have heard plenty of owls hooting at each other at
night when I have camped at Copperhead Landing and Dogwood Shelters.
There use to be a pair of Osprey's that nested in a large pine tree along the Neuse
River section of the trail until a hurricane took out the tree. You knew when they
were nesting as they would voice their displeasure with you when you hiked by the
tree. Not the same now that they are not there anymore.
2017 Update...Don't know if it is the same pair but there is a pair of Ospreys nesting very
close to where the old nesting site was.
I have also spoted a couple of foxes while hiking. They did not stick around.
If you hear a tapping sound, start looking for a red-cockaded woodpecker. I have
see a few while hiking. My son and I heard one and could not spot it and finally
realized it was inside a tree digging out a nesting cavity.
My wife and I have also seen a pair of
Spotted Turtles in a small body of water along the trail It must be their home
as we have seen them in the same place on different hikes. Have never been able
to get a good picture of them as they borrow in the mud as soon as they spot us.
Many species of birds live in the Croatan. The water provides homes for ducks, gulls,
wading birds, osprey, and a few bald eagles ( I have seen one bald eagle while hiking the trail ).
A wide variety of forest birds also make their homes in the hardwoods and pines
A variety of turtles, lizards ( often seen around and on the shelters ) and
snakes call the Croatan their home. As stated earlier I often see snakes while hiking
but have to spot a poisonous snake while hiking. While five species of poisonous
snakes snakes live in the area; ( eastern cottonmouth, southern copperhead, and
timber ( also called a canebrake ), eastern diamondback, and Carolina
pigmy rattlesnakes; it is very unlikely that you will see one.
The only poisonous snake I have seen while living here were two canebrake rattlers
I found in my garage ( shown in the picture at top of page). They were not aggressive
and I used a snake stick to put them in a large bucket and I then released them
out in the Croatan over a mile from the nearest house.
IF YOU SPOT A SNAKE, LEAVE IT ALONE. YOU ARE VISITING IT'S HOME.
IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE TO KILL THE SNAKE THEN YOU SHOULD NOT BE OUT IN THE
WOODS. IF THE SNAKE IS ON THE TRAIL THEN GIVE IT A MINUTE AND IT WILL HEAD
BACK INTO THE WOODS OR YOU CAN HIKE AROUND IT.
During the warmer months you will encounter the dreaded "Down East Humming Bird"
or as most people known them - mosquitoes. The salt water mosquitoes in the area
tend to be very aggressive and they hurt when they bite. Along with the skeeters
you will also find (or rather they will find you) Deer Flies, they do not sting
but they will bite and it hurts. Once the temperatures drop into the 50's and
lower, the skeeters, deer flies and chiggers are not a problem. That is why many
of us only hike the trail during the cooler months of the year.
I have found ticks all year so be sure and check yourself after a hike for
unwanted hitchhikers. Chiggers are very active along the trail during the summer
time. As far as I am concerned. ticks are far more dangerous than snakes. Studies on the
decrease of Rattlesnake populations is believed to have allowed an increase in number
of mice and rats which in turn means an increase in the number of ticks.
Best to use bug spray before you hit the trail. Don't worry if you missed
a spot with the bug spray as the skeeters and ticks will be happy to let you know
the places you missed.
Alligators...they are out there in the area but I have yet to see any. Maybe one day.
And no, contary to what one site reports; Aligators are not hiding under the boardwalks.
Bears...yes there are Black Bears in the area. I have yet to see any and have not
heard of any hikers seeing any. Also I have not heard of any hikers having problems
with bears getting into their food at the shelters. I have run into a bear while
hiking at night in the NC mountains in the early 70's. I don't know who was more
scared, me or the bear. Fortunately the bear decided it did not want to stay around
and play and took off.
Other critters you may spot are Opossums, Raccoons, Otters and more recently coyotes have
been spotted in the area.
One of two Canebrake Rattlers I found in my garage. I captured the snakes and released them in the Croatan NF