Bears star on wildlife tour

Published 1:00 am Thursday, September 15, 2011

Anyone looking to enjoy nature in a somewhat unexplored part of eastern North Carolina should participate in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge bear tour at 4 p.m. Friday.
Sherryreed Moore, a visitor-outreach specialist at the refuge, described how fun the tours have been in the past.
“We usually go on a tram that can hold up to 35 people and usually it has been full on each one of our tours,” Moore said. “In the past, we have sponsored at least four tram tours that were completely full. On one of our tours at Pocosin Lakes, on the Pungo unit, we saw over 20 bears in one day in their natural habitat. That was truly an amazing experience.”
The tour will focus on the areas of the refuge with the greatest potential for seeing black bear.
“Black bears are abundant on Pocosin Lakes, and we have a tremendous diversity of wildlife here as well,” said Howard Phillips, refuge manager. “Bears need large areas of contiguous habitat, and they do well in the 100,000-plus acres of pocosin wetlands we protect here.”
The tours are new to the refuge, thanks to the Friends of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and a tram provided by the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.
Pocosin Lakes NWR is staffed by a refuge manager, assistant refuge manager, wildlife biologist, administrative officer, two heavy-equipment operators, a refuge law-enforcement officer, a fire-management officer, three equipment operators, three forestry technicians and a visitor-services specialist.
The primary funding to manage the refuge comes through the annual congressional appropriation to the U.S. Department of the Interior. This funding is allocated to the refuge through a variety of subaccounts, including operations, maintenance, law enforcement and visitor services. The National Wildlife Refuge System is a program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the Interior Department.
2011 is the first year for the tours, with the first tour taking place in May.
The tram tour is scheduled to take three and a half hours, allowing time for stops and observations.
Those interested in attending the tour should contact Jennifer Alligood, president of Friends of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, at 252-927-3792 or Doris Morris, the group’s vice president, at 252-793-9756.