Jockey's Ridge State Park
Nags Head, North Carolina Photos by Ray Matthews
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Wildlife

Visitors usually will not encounter many animals that live at the ridge. Early morning hikers may see a variety of tracks left in the sand from nightly visits of red and gray foxes, rabbits, deer, raccoons, and mice.

Six-lined Racerunner tracks
The Six-Lined Racerunner is the fastest lizard in North America.
Raccoon
The Raccoon is a nocturnal (night-time) park visitor. A raccoon's front paws are adapted to easily carry a variety of foods such as grapes, acorns, insects, frogs and crabs.
Red Fox
Jockey's Ridge is host to the Red Fox (shown here) and the Gray Fox. The fox feeds on anything, especially fruits and small mammals such as mice and rabbits. The persimmon trees are one of the important fruit sources for the fox in the fall. The grey fox is one of the few animals that walks in a straight line, very similar to a cat. The tracks shown are from a grey fox. This red fox was caught on camera by some park visitors.
White-tailed Deer
The White-tailed Deer is a frequent visitor to the vegetated areas. The low trees and shrubs offer protection, resting areas, and food. Deer feed on wildflowers, acorns, and leaves. In their search for food, the deer travel back and forth between Jockey's Ridge and Nags Head Woods.
Hognose snake
The Hognose snake is a harmless reptile that leaves distinctive "S-shaped" tracks in the sand. The snake's favorite food is toads, which it tracks with its sense of smell. The hognose uses some unique behaviors for defense such as hissing, flattening its neck, swelling with air and feigning death.
Opposum
The Opposum is also a nocturnal animal and has a similar diet to the raccoon. They are the only North American marsupial which means they have a pouch to carry their young.
Rabbit
Rabbits can often be seen nibbling on the vegetation. They can usually can be seen at dusk and dawn
rabbit tracks
Luna Moth
Luna Moth
  • Moths are nocturnal (active at night).
  • Moth larvae love to eat hickory and walnut leaves.
  • Male and female moths mate at night, for about four hours.
  • The moth caterpillar changes its skin five times before it is fully grown.
  • Adult Luna Moths have no mouth - they eat nothing.

Bird Life

Bird life is abundant throughout the park. In fall and spring, birds migrating on the Atlantic Flyway can be seen at the park. In winter, the soundside becomess home to many different waterfowl. In the summertime, look for the Osprey and a variety of shorebirds. Throughout the year songbirds, such as the Yellow-rumped Warbler and the Carolina Chickadee.

The Brown Pelican and the Osprey (shown below) were almost extinct until the government banned the use of the insecticide DDT. Birds were consuming fish that had absorbed high levels of DDT. This caused their eggshells to become weak and break before chicks were ready to hatch. The pelican and osprey populations are now recovering.

Bird lists are available at the park office.

Brown Pelican
Lots of Brown Pelican can be seen skimming across the water and diving for fish.
Along the water on the soundside, there are many holes in the sand made by birds with long bills, such as the Sandpiper, as they probe for worms and small clams.
Sandpiper tracks
Snowy Egret
The Snowy Egret can often be seen wading in the shallow waters of the Roanoke Sound in search of food such as small fish.
Osprey
Osprey can be seen nesting on the top of platforms in the sound.
Blue Heron
The Blue Heron can often be seen wading in the waters of the sound in search of small fish.
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The Friends of Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Ray Matthews Photos © Ray Matthews