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Animal Species Around the Little Tennessee River
Apr 11, 2016
The Little Tennessee River is located near Bryson City in Western North Carolina. It flows through Macon and Swain Counties, and is one of the most biologically-important areas in the entire state. Rich in plant and animal life, you’ll find many beauteous critters in and around this awe-inspiring waterway. Let’s check out a few of the animals you might see while enjoying a nature float trip:
Reintroduced to the Little Tennessee River Basin in 1992, these furry, oh-so-cute mammals are also known as common and northern river otters. Their thick fur is water-resistant, and they’re just as agile on land as they are in water. Burrows are commonly found close to the water’s edge in rivers, estuaries, swamps, and similar ecosystems. Fish are a (naturally) favorite food, while they also enjoy turtles, frogs, and crayfish.
Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel
About one-third larger than the common Southern flying squirrel, Carolina Northern flying squirrels have brown-colored backs and “buff white” fur on their tummies. Nocturnal animals, they have huge eyes to help them see in the dark. Active year-round, particularly in the summer, these flying squirrels enjoy a diet of fungi, lichens, fruit, and nuts. Considered “relics” of the last ice age, the fascinating creatures “fly,” or glide, via extended folds of skin that stretch from their tiny wrists to their tiny ankles. Flattened tails act as rudders...nice, right?
One of the largest members of the deer family, elk are majestic creatures capable of weighing over 1,000 pounds. Bull elk lose their stately antlers every March, but grow them back in May as part of late-summer breeding. Light brown/tan in color, these herbivores feature darker, shaggier hair around their necks.
These semi-aquatic rodents are the second-largest in the world, and are mainly known for their large, flat tails and the dams they build. Mainly nocturnal, it’s still possible to see beavers working on their homes during the day. Light brown in color, North American beavers favor maple, birch, red oak, black cherry, ash, beech, and willow trees among others. Diet includes aquatic plants, roots, leaves, twigs, and bark.
One of many beautiful “wader” birds, the Great Egret is a bit smaller than the Great Blue Heron, but just as striking. Large bigs with sizable wingspans, Great Egrets have yellow beaks and long, black legs. Feathers are a brilliant shade of white. Their stick nests are found high up in trees, with fish their diet staple.
Look for these and other species as you float along this magical river!