Wildlife Safety


Wildlife Safety

Bald Head Island provides rich habitats for a number of wildlife species, including animals that could have harmful interactions with humans. While those interactions may be unintentional, they could result in the human or animal getting hurt. There are also legal ramifications for harassing or feeding some species.

BHIC’s role is to monitor wildlife populations, educate the public, and respond to wildlife emergencies. We work closely with other organizations that have jurisdiction over wildlife. Wildlife regulations are set by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and county and local ordinances, and enforcement on BHI is by Public Safety.

BHIC uses social media, our website, signage throughout the island, and public programs to educate the public about safe interactions with wildlife. We respond to calls to our wildlife emergency hotline by assessing the situation and either aiding/relocating the animal ourselves, or being a liaison with the proper authorities.

Please enjoy all wildlife on Bald Head island from a safe distance.

If there is a wildlife emergency or you are concerned about a wild animal, please call our Wildlife Emergency Hotline and leave a detailed message.  We are not a rehabilitation facility but may be able to assist.

To report humans harassing, feeding, fishing in lagoons, or other unsafe interactions with wildlife, please contact Public Safety.

For non-emergency questions and concerns, please email us at conservation@bhic.org.

Safe Wildlife Interactions

The American alligator is the largest reptile in North Carolina, a formidable predator, and is listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These alligators are an extremely important part of our ecosystem because they are considered a keystone species. They inhabit golf course lagoons and other freshwater ponds around Bald Head Island. For alligators and people to live in harmony and coexist on Bald Head Island, follow these safety protocols:

  • Do not feed alligators
  • Stay away from the edge of freshwater ponds – alligators can jump 4 feet vertically!
  • Do not leave children or pets unattended
  • Observe from a safe distance – stay further than 20 feet away

The Village of BHI and the BHI Conservancy would like to remind everyone to NEVER feed an alligator: they may associate you with food and become too desensitized to humans, which may result in a possible attack. Feeding alligators include feeding turtles or other animals in lagoons, and fishing in lagoons.

A $500.00 fine will be issued to anyone found feeding or harassing alligators as prohibited in the Village Code of Ordinances Sec. 4-501, Item (a). This is the maximum fine that could be issued as a Class 3 misdemeanor or a civil citation in the amount of $50.00.

If you see someone feeding or harassing alligators, please call
Public Safety at 910-457-5252

The Conservancy has not confirmed any venomous snakes living on Bald Head Island. Occasionally a member of the public shares a photo of a snake that has been killed due to mistaken identity: a few turned out to be harmless Banded Watersnakes (Nerodia fasciata fasciata, not Copperheads or Cottonmouths). We strongly discourage the practice of killing snakes because they are beneficial and deserve to be left in peace (even if venomous). Remember to:

  • Keep your distance from any snake
  • Refer to reference materials to ID snakes (note that pupil shape, head shape, and coloration can all be misleading). It’s helpful to look at multiple characteristics.
  • If you think a snake is venomous and can safely take a picture, please send photos to conservation@bhic.org and we will help ID it for you.
  • If you’re concerned about an injured snake or one that needs to be relocated, call the Conservancy’s Wildlife Hotline: 910-457-0089 Option 5.

Coyotes are non-native to Bald Head Island, North Carolina. The Conservancy has been tracking coyote presence on the island since 2014. The animal’s unique ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats and lack of predators has led to a range expansion. While in most cases coyotes are harmless, and simply seeing a coyote is not cause for alarm, people can take steps to prevent conflicts with these animals and other wildlife.

Attacks on people, including children, are extremely rare. Normal coyote behavior is to be curious, but wary, when close to humans. Like other wildlife, they will become bold and habituated if people feed them, either purposely or inadvertently, such as with garbage or outdoor pet food.

Coyotes may attack pets. Coyotes view small unleashed dogs as prey, while larger dogs are viewed as threats to their territory. Protect your pets by keeping them inside, leashed, or inside a fenced area.

Roof rats (Rattus rattus) are an invasive species that have established a population on Bald Head Island, NC. These rats have caused thousands of dollars of damage to homes and businesses. Residents have concerns that the non-native species will continue to cause damage to buildings and homes and impacts to wildlife. It is impossible to completely eradicate rats from the island, but there are steps homeowners can take to reduce their impact and spread. Our recommendations:

  • Protect your home by preventing initial rodent entry: have your home professionally inspected and sealed
  • Seal up exterior garbage cans and educate renters about doing the same
  • Seek information from US EPA or National Pesticide Information Center about how to use rodenticides safely to help protect higher predator populations

Sea turtles are special summer visitors to Bald Head Island, and safe interactions with them are important to allow them to safely nest and propagate their species.

Sea turtle nesting season is May – November when only red light is allowed on the beach at night (no white light).

Other beach rules important for successful sea turtle nesting:

  • Leave turtles & nests undisturbed
  • Observe turtles & nests from a respectful distance
  • Fill in holes & flatten sand structures
  • Remove all property and litter from the beach each night
  • For more information about our sea turtle program, please click here.

Sharks are common in the waters off of Bald Head Island, with most being non-aggressive species including sandbar, blacktip, Atlantic sharpnose, and spinner sharks. Shark bites are quite rare around Bald Head Island; however, there are also more aggressive bull and hammerhead sharks in NC coastal waters so it is important to be mindful of your surroundings before entering the ocean.

Areas such as the shoals and river point are likely to have the highest abundance of sharks because these are areas where their food sources are also most common.

A few safety guidelines include:

  • Avoid swimming in areas where there are a lot of small-mid size fish feeding on bait fish
  • Avoid swimming at dawn or dusk/night when sharks become more active
  • Avoid wearing shiny jewelry while swimming
  • Stay out of the water if you are bleeding (this is also important to keep wounds from becoming infected).

If you catch a shark while fishing, there are special tools for safely removing the hook from its mouth. If the hook cannot be safely removed, cut the fishing line as close to its mouth as possible and the hook will rust and break off in a reasonable amount of time.

Please also watch out for the shark thrashing about as they are quite powerful and a quick whip of its tail can easily knock you down. It is also important to protect the shark by getting it back into the water as quickly as possible. Their bodies are meant to be supported by water and if left lying on the sand for too long, their internal organs can be damaged by compression.

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