The Bears of OBX

14 Photos

Photos and text by Jerry Jackson/ Baltimore Sun

A few miles inland of the strip malls and beach cottages that make up North Carolina’s Outer Banks is an area almost as intriguing as that of the Lost Colony on nearby Roanoke Island. Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, a swampy, no-man’s land, boasts one of the largest concentrations of black bears on the East coast.

The refuge is home to the endangered red wolf and even American alligators but the bears are easiest to find. Driving along Sawyer Lake Road in late afternoon or early morning, visitors can often see bears as they cross the road – headed from the thick, swampy forest to feed in the corn fields. With drainage ditches on both sides of the gravel road, a wet set of tracks is a good indicator that a bear is nearby.

On a recent summer evening, we saw a dozen bears in the hour before sunset and even more the next morning. A pair of binoculars or telephoto lens, useful for spotting bears along the edges of distant fields, will also keep you from getting too close to a momma bear and her cubs.