Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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|Cats / Family-Felidae
Bobcats and mountain lions are the only felines native to Cades Cove. Bobcats still live in the cove. They usually eat small game, but will kill small deer. Bobcats grow up to three feet in length and weigh up to 20 pounds. They are nocturnal and seldom seen.
The Smoky's native mountain lion is the eastern cougar. Most biologists believe hunters eliminated the cougar from the region in 1920. However, persistent sightings since the 1960s led to studies. No definitive evidence of their presence resulted. Any cougars currently in the Smokies are transients or released pets.
|Dogs / Family Canidae
Red and gray foxes are native to Cades Cove. The gray fox is more common. Foxes prefer habitats with open and forested areas such as Cades Cove. The gray fox is less aggressive than the red, but its ability to climb trees aids in food collection and defense. Coyotes and red wolves should lower Cove's fox population.
Coyotes also inhabit the Park, favoring the Cades Cove area. Coyotes migrated across the Mississippi River and arrived in the Park in 1985.
|Weasel, Mink, Skunk. River Otter / Family
The long-tailed weasel, mink, eastern spotted skunk, striped skunk, and river otter live in and around Cades Cove. Man regionally eliminated the fisher in the 19th century. In the mid 1980s, the Park successfully reintroduced 140 river otters. Favorite otters habitats include Abrams Creek, and the Little River, Otters are nocturnal and rarely spotted by people.
Weasels, minks, and spotted skunks are rare. Skunk populations fell due to diseases such as distemper, and should recover. Although one of the Park's most feared residents, skunks spray only when threatened.
|Raccoon / Family Procyonidae
The raccoon is this family's only local member. Racoons congregate near streambanks where they feed on crayfish, salamanders, nuts, or berries. They will eat almost anything. Local population densities vary because of disease. Raccoons will steal food from humans. They will even beg.
|Beaver / Family Castoridae
In the 1600s beaver were common in Cades Cove. By the 20th century, none remained. Reintroduced in North Carolina in the 1960s, beavers migrated back to the Smokies. Beavers prefer slow waters.
|Squirrel, Chipmunk, Woodchuck / Family Sciuridae
Local members of this family include: the eastern chipmunk, woodchuck, gray squirrel, fox squirrel, red squirrel, southern flying squirrel, and northern flying squirrel. Acorn abundance determines the winter survival for the chipmunk, gray squirrel, fox squirrel, and southern flying squirrel. Red squirrels eat a varied diet, including insects and bird eggs.
Woodchucks, also called groundhogs or whistle pigs, are common along roadsides. They live in underground tunnels. When caught outside their tunnels, they climb trees to elude predators. Like all members of this family, they face heavy predation from canines and felines.
|Rabbits / Family Leporidae
The two local members of this family are the eastern cottontail and the New England cottontail. Eastern cottontails hide in tall grasses to avoid detection. Sightings are more common in mowed areas. The New England cottontails only live in the higher elevations.
|Pigs / Family Suidae
The wild hog is the only Suidae present. They are not native and damage Park's ecosystems. Eurpoean Wild Boars came to the southern Appalachians in the early 1900s as sport for hunters. They overran their fenced enclosure near Hoopers Bald, North Carolina, and quickly spread throughout the region. Females can birth 12 piglets each year. They root through the soil, killing plants, promoting erosion, and polluting streams. In the fall, they compete with native species for acorns.
Since the wild hog is a destructive non-native species, the Park works to control their number. Despite 30 years of management, more than 500 hogs remain in the Park. Future efforts may maintain populations at minimal levels, but elimination is unlikely.
|Deer / Family Cervidae
Besides whitetail deer, eastern elk once represented this family. Gone
for 200 years, a reintroduction effort could return this animal to the Smokies.
Deer populations can change quickly. Local overpopulation leads to widespread disease and starvation. Predation by wolves, coyotes, bears, and bobcats help reduce threats associated with overpopulation.
Deer living in the southern Appalachians give birth in late June. Newborn fawns have no defense beyond camouflage. Many are lost to predation during their first few days. By their second spring, males begin to grow antlers. They fully develop in August, and in September, the bucks fight for mating rights. Mating occurs in November. The antlers fall off by mid-winter.
Deer browse for nutritious foods. The Park's diversity is excellent habitat. When favored foods disappear, deer switch to more common, less nutritious plants. If nothing else is available, they will eat poison ivy or rhododendron. Acorns and nuts are important fall foods. Acorn availability relates to deer survival rates.
The opossum is the Park's only marsupial. Other mammals include shrews, moles, and mice. Several bat species are common in and around the Cove. Bats are nocturnal. Black rat snakes eat bats. One snake, Gladys, devours sleeping bats at the Cades Cove Visitor Center. The snake uses the Visitor Center roof as its home and grocery store.
|Call Steve Speer at: 865-233-0508
or Email: [email protected]