The Loons of the Outer Banks
During the late spring, summer and fall seasons, the Outer Banks of North Carolina is home to several species of Loons. The Common Loon (Gavia immer) and the Red-Throated Loon (Gavia Stellata) are the two most common types of Loons who visit our area becasue of the high-quality environment that provides them with excellent feeding.
Loons are migratory water-fowl and as such, they are protected by federal law under the migratory bird treaty act-harrassing these birds, disturbing their nesting grounds or hunting these birds can carry a fine of one-thousand ($1000.00) dollars and 90 days in jail.
Loons are considered among the most primitive birds on earth and haven't changed their form in about one million years. The first Loon-relative appeared about 25 million years ago and measured six feet from beak to tail.
These birds average about 10 pounds each, eat roughly two pounds of fish per day and can fly in excess of 65mph at an altitude of 3,500 feet.
Loons are diving birds that can go as far as 200 feet below the surface of the water and remain submerged for up to one minute, propelling themselves with their feet and using their short wings to make sudden underwater turns in order to catch their prey.
Common Loons take off and land in water-taking off requires a great distance due to their short wings and typically land on their breasts instead of their feet. Only the Red-Throated Loon has been shown to land and take off from dry land.
When the ocean water is rough, Loons will ride the tide to land and make their way up onto the sand. Since their feet act as propellers, they are set far back on a Loons body which makes it very difficult for these birds to walk on land.
To the casual observer, the Loon might appear to have been injured or is sick and when approached, the Loon will thrash about and use it's wings as crutches in order to escape.
The Outer Banks SPCA receives several calls each season from a good samaritan who honestly believes that they have found a Loon in distress but the truth is, Loons will return to the ocean and ride the tide back out when the waters have calmed.
When beaches are crowded, contact with Loons might be unavoidable-if this occurs, the Loon can be safely captured with a towel by gently covering it and relocating it to a safer, quite location such as the sound, a pond or the dunes.
Please remember, Loons are a protected species and respect wildlife from a distance.
The Raccoons of the Outer Banks
Here on the Outer Banks, raccoons can be seen throughout the year. Usually observed at night, they are occasionally seen during the day eating or napping in a tree or searching elsewhere for food. Coastal raccoons take advantage of low tides and are seen foraging on shellfish and other food by day.
Dare County allows for trapping of domestic animals as well as wildlife under the following guidelines:
1. If an animal is posing a threat to the immediate physical safety of residents.
2. Reported sick animals that are a threat to public health (rabies vector species).
3. Animals that have bitten or exposed humans or domestic animals and need to be captured for rabies quarantine.
4. Seriously sick or injured animals that are suffering and need to be euthanized or be taken to a licensed vet.
If any of the above situations are taking place, please call us at (252)475-5620 for assistance.
Mere "nuisance" calls should be referred to NCWCR dispatch at 800-662-7137 or private licensed trappers.
If you have obtained a trap from Dare County Animal Control, please follow these rules:
1. You are responsible for the trap while in your custody or on your property. Call immediately if a trap is damaged or stolen. You may be charged full replacement costs for traps lost, stolen or damaged while in your care.
2. You are responsible to set, bait and monitor the trap.
3. You are responsible for the care and HUMANE treatment of trapped animals until turned over to the custody of Animal Control.
4. Close the trap at noon on Friday and leave closed until Sunday night. Officers are not available to impound animals on weekends and holidays. ***If you call after hours or on a weekend, you will be instructed to release the animal.***
5. Do not leave set trap unattended for long periods.
6. Close the trap during rain or inclement weather.
7. Do not set traps in full sunlight unless constantly monitoring trap.
A raccoon’s search for food may lead it to a vegetable garden, fish pond, garbage can, or chicken coop. Its search for a den site may lead it to an attic, chimney, or crawl space. The most effective way to prevent conflicts is to modify the habitat around your home so as not to attract raccoons. Recommendations on how to do this are given below:
Don’t feed raccoons.
Feeding raccoons may create undesirable situations for you, your children, neighbors, pets, and the raccoons themselves. Raccoons that are fed by people often lose their fear of humans and may become aggressive when not fed as expected. Artificial feeding also tends to concentrate raccoons in a small area; overcrowding can spread diseases and parasites. Finally, these hungry visitors might approach a neighbor who doesn’t share your appreciation of the animals. The neighbor might choose to remove these raccoons, or have them removed.
Don’t give raccoons access to garbage.
Keep your garbage can lid on tight by securing it with rope, chain, bungee cords, or weights. Better yet, buy garbage cans with clamps or other mechanisms that hold lids on. To prevent tipping, secure side handles to metal or wooden stakes driven into the ground. Or keep your cans in tight-fitting bins, a shed, or a garage. Put garbage cans out for pickup in the morning, after raccoons have returned to their resting areas.
Feed dogs and cats indoors.
If you must feed your pets outside, do so in late morning or at midday, and pick up food, water bowls, leftovers, and spilled food well before dark every day.
Keep your pets inside at night.
If cornered, raccoons may attack dogs and cats. Bite wounds from raccoons can result in fractures and disease transmission.
Prevent raccoons from entering pet doors.
Keep indoor pet food and any other food away from a pet door. Lock the pet door at night. If it is necessary to have it remain open, put an electronically activated opener on your pet’s collar. Note: Floodlights or motion detector lights placed above the pet door to scare raccoons are not long-term solutions.
Put food in secure compost containers and clean up barbecue areas.
Don’t put food of any kind in open compost piles; instead, use a securely covered compost structure or a commercially available raccoon-proof composter to prevent attracting raccoons and getting exposed to their droppings. A covered worm box is another alternative. If burying food scraps, cover them with at least 8 inches of soil and don’t leave any garbage above ground in the area—including the stinky shovel. Placing a wire mesh barrier that is held in place with a heavy object over the in-ground compost will prevent problems.
Though raccoons look cute and sometimes innocent, some do still carry disease and/ or may become come territorial. Just a few tips and suggestions to keep you, your family and your house safe.