Wildlife Mythbusters

Author: NCWRC blogger/Thursday, January 5, 2012/Categories: Blog, Hunting, Wildlife Management, Wildlife Watching

Credit NPS.Joe Schmoe knows a guy who knows guy whose brother was a game warden who swears when he was on staff at the Wildlife Commission, biologists dropped dozens of rattlesnakes from helicopters. Many folks tell this story.

Sometimes, the story is “legitimized” by adding details:  Wildlife dropped the snakes (with parachutes?) to control the deer population, and the rattler-stocking project was conducted under the cover of night from black, stealth helicopters to stay off the public’s radar screen.

Still others weave a tale of biologists wanting to replenish a dwindling population of rattlesnakes in Hanging Rock State Park.

Sounds exciting. Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on how much you like snakes — it’s not true. This is one of a few rumors that circulate around North Carolina, despite the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s  persistent efforts to quash them.

Some also believe the Commission released coyotes to control the deer population. Also a myth. Coyotes arrived in North Carolina as a result of natural range expansion from neighboring states. They established a sustainable population by the mid-1980s, and, by 2004, coyotes lived in every county in North Carolina.

Finally, one of the most tenacious rumors regards cougars (also called panthers and mountain lions). The Wildlife Commission receives dozens of calls reporting sightings every year. Nearly all are unconfirmed, and many turn out to be bobcats, deer, foxes or coyotes — all of which are common in North Carolina.

All confirmed sightings since 1950 turn out to be escaped captive animals, kept as pets. The wild eastern cougar has been extinct in North Carolina for many years.

Occasionally, the myth pops up that the Commission, or some other government agency, released cougars to control the feral pig population. This is not true.


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