Animals In Appalachia Heritage

Wildlife In Southern Appalachia

Deer in Western NC

When I was growing up deer were so rarely seen that when you did catch a glimpse of one you felt like you’d seen a zebra.

Every Sunday after church we’d go to Granny Gazzie’s to eat dinner. We traveled along Hedden Road which wasn’t paved in those days. One Sunday we saw a deer standing near an old barn. That is my only memory of seeing a deer when I was a kid.

Today I rarely drive through Brasstown without seeing at least three or four deer, sometimes as many as twenty in one field alone.

Bear in Western NC
While seeing a deer when I was young was rare, seeing a bear was unheard of. Oh you might hear about bear hunters getting one in Nantahala or Fires Creek, but you didn’t hear about bears being seen around people’s house like you do now.

Bear in cherokee co nc
One day when the girls were in first grade, a little boy I babysat and I were home alone when I heard our little beagle Wilma start barking up a storm. Just to make him laugh I was saying silly things like “Wilma you better hush up-what are you barking at girl?” When I looked out the window little Wilma, who weighed less than 20 lbs, was chasing a big black bear through the yard. Like a dummy I ran out to try and get her to come back, but quickly noticed the bear wasn’t paying her one bit of attention. It was like Wilma was of no more concern to the bear than a fly would have been. As soon as it left the yard Wilma came back to the porch, looking at me like she’d saved the day.

Coyotes in western nc
Coyotes were another animal that you never seen or heard of when I was growing up. Now they are a menace to most folks, especially us since they were the demise of our little Wilma. Sometimes you can hear them howling at night on the ridge across from us. It’ll make those little hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

After they started preying on the cattle near here one farmer hired people to kill the coyotes before they killed any more of his cows. The same farmer added a donkey to each of his fields too. Everyone said they were to protect the calves from coyotes, but since the donkeys are gone now I’m not sure how good the tactic worked.

All the pictures in this post came from The Deer Hunter’s trail camera. Several years ago he set it up about 350 yards above our house. We were always anxious to see what would show up on it when he got the film developed.

Deer in cherokee co nc

Mostly there were pictures of deer, squirrels, and turkey. But we were surprised by the bear, coyote, and bobcat.

Bobcat in western nc

This is the only shot he got of a bobcat. Makes me think it only took the one click of the camera to ensure he never came back that way again.

Trail cam pictures
There was usually some funny ones on the camera too-like this one. What were those two doing up there? And there was the occasional neighborhood dog prancing through like he was on a special mission only he knew about.

It was interesting to learn most of you are believers like me when it comes to the question of whether big cats live in areas of Appalachia. Another interesting point some of you made were the rumors that wildlife officials have turned big cats loose, even though they are usually the ones telling folks they seen a house cat or a dog.

After Pap and I saw the mountain lion on Franklin mountain we heard there had been a release of mountain lions in the Nantahala area. It made perfect sense to us that one could have traveled to the Standing Indian area.

The dramatic increase of wildlife in my area over my lifetime is remarkable. I suppose it’s due to the decrease in hunting and the increase in people population pushing animals into areas they normally stayed away from.

What about where you live has there been an increase or a decrease in wildlife?



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  • Reply
    January 5, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Love the music! Hillbilly here and I can say I have seen more deer , bear and turkeys over the last 5 years or so than I have my entire life. I’m OK with it too 🙂

  • Reply
    January 2, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to know if there is an increase in the wildlife population. But I do so enjoy the turkeys as they strut across the pasture. They were visiting this morning. I could see them through the trees on the neighboring farm. And as always we have rabbits galore. The deer are here, but I never see them. Only where they’ve been. And there is a mole that is leaving tunnels all over the place. LOL

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 30, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    I live in the town of Black Mountain in Western North Carolina. When I say, in town, I mean inside the city limits. We have bears regularly. One evening before dark I had five bears in my yard at the same time!
    I haven’t seen any deer here but I have lots of raccoons. They actually come to my door when they are hungry. I feed them dog food. They have babies in a brush pile in my back yard. I don’t try to make pets of them I just feed them when they are hunger.
    Last night about 3:00 am I heard a racket on my deck. I got up to see what the commotion was and there were 4 young raccoons on the deck playing and wrestling. Looked like they were having lots of fun. Didn’t faze them when I turned the light on, the just went right on playing. I went back to bed and left them to it! lol!
    I love the critters and assume they are down in town because folks are so busy building houses up in the mountains where they live!

  • Reply
    December 30, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    When I was young, we mostly had small game around, with the ocassional deer and even rarer bear. In the last couple of decades we’ve had more and more deer, bear and lately coyotes. Coyotes yelping is just about the unholiest sound I ever hope to hear – I’m right with you on it making your hair raise up! So sorry about Wilma. A friend of mine lost a little Cairn Terrier to coyotes this past fall. Gotta’ give the ‘little scotsman’ credit though – he must have fought like a demon to get away from them, sadly he was so badly hurt he couldn’t be helped. Some of our local men have been banding together to hunt them down, but I don’t think they’ve been too successful. I wonder what other communities are doing about this problem?

  • Reply
    December 30, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Very interesting! Thanks for sharing! I will enjoy seeing and reading now! 🙂
    Angela Broyles

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    December 29, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    We didn’t even see squirrels when we moved here 35 years ago — everything had been hunted out. But now, as fewer and fewer people keep cattle, the pastures are growing up and there’s food and cover for all kinds of wildlife. Lots of turkeys, deer, and squirrels.

  • Reply
    December 29, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    What a great post Tipper. We have an abundance of wild life here in our neighborhood in Florida. We have barred owls, possums, armidillos, rabbits, raccoons and an occasional coyote and even had a wild black hog in the yard one time. A young black bear wandered into our little downtown area several years ago.

  • Reply
    December 29, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Nice bobcat picture, I have only seen one of those, and it was running across a rural road in front of my car, so I didn’t see it well. I have seen many deer and other small animals near my hometown in northern Michigan, and we can always hear the coyotes howling at night in the summer. Last summer we saw a small bear cross the street and run up behind a hours near a cemetery we were visiting. There are many bears in that area. Here in the suburbs there are rabbits, fox, groundhogs, ground squirrels, squirrels, deer and coyotes, but no bears.

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    December 29, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    I live in your area, Tipper, and I see more and more deer. A large buck walked up our road and up my driveway recently before going into the woods. We had one bear who took my garbage can up the mountain. But the raccoons were the biggest problem we had. We trapped three and found them a new home. I miss the rabbits that played in our yard in late afternoon when we moved to this house 16 years ago. Large numbers of turkeys strut through the woods behind my house.
    I love the wildlife and feel sorry that man is taking over their habitat. Especially in the sprawling city areas.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 29, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    We live in a pretty densely populated area in south Florida, but within less than a half-mile from a state park. I often see deer within 100 yards of the entrance to our development. I am an early bird, and about 1 mile from home, I saw a coyote crossing the road at about 5 AM. I used to chase coyotes at Ft. Riley, KS, so I definitely know the difference between coyotes and dogs, and I wa not imagining it!!

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    December 29, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    In the 8 years that we’ve lived in east TN, wildlife has increased significantly. Whereas a few deer roamed, now they come through in large numbers. We’ve seen bear and their scat in our woods and the coyote roam also. We finally bought a trailcam and always find something roaming our woods day and night.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    December 29, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Tipper: That was an interesting trip into the woods with the trailcam. BTW: We had four buck in the back yard this month.

  • Reply
    December 29, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Jim-I was talking about the bigger animals I mentioned when I said a dramatic increase-I should have been more specific.We still have quite a few rabbits here-but you are so right about the grouse-I believe they are almost gone from this area. I remember hearing them beat when I walked out in Granny and Paps yard when I was little-I always thought it sounded like a lawnmower way in the distance starting up.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
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  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    December 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I wanted to add…There is no limit on Armadillo in Tennessee…and it’s open season…Yes, like the coyotes they are moving in on us from the West….
    Jim…Tn. Grouse season..2010 is 10/9 to 2/28 daily limit: 3
    Quail 11/13 to 2/28 daily limit: 6
    But you can’t hunt on my place..sorry!..I try to keep hedge rows on the fence lines and brush in front of the woods…’cause I love to watch the little critters come out on the edge of the woods with their little chicks following all in a row…LOL and my neighbor is falling coyotes full time…and we have seen an increase in the rabbits…not sure that is too good either… wise anyways….
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Melissa P
    December 29, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    So much fun to read about the wildlife down home. That’s one of the main things that made moving up here to Michigan not so bad for me. The house we ended up buying had a “welcoming committee” of deer. That was a major factor in choosing the house we did. We have all kinds of wildlife as our house adjoins a large protected wildlife area. We have deer, too many raccoons, great birds, some fox – though less than before the coyote population started increasing, lots of rabbits, turtles, and even a few possum. I know it’s not legal in some areas, but one way to keep deer from eating your roses and other good shrubs is to set up a deer feeding area (a ways away from where your good plants are) and fill that with stuff they love (corn, old apples, carrots, sugar beets, etc.)

  • Reply
    December 29, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    dnr unfortunately thought they were doing the right thing by releasing coyotes in our area 12 years ago which has wreaked havoc on the pets. so sad. loved the webcam shots. jill

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    December 29, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Wow lots of widlife your way! We have lots of coyotes and bobcats, there have been a few bear sighted but not on our place. Lots of deer, turkey coons, possums,groundhogs, otter, beaver, mink and even a badger. Eagles this time of year and always hawks and owls galore. After the Great Depression deer were unheard of here and then they were reintroduced.

  • Reply
    December 29, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    We have plenty of rabbits in our neighborhood (Probably why the foxes are here too) and at least one really stupid, half-blind, and fat possum that likes to steal our cat’s food from our porch. There are a lot of wooded areas in our neighborhood, and in the past year there have been several coyotes sighted – people worry about their cats and small children, but I doubt they’re really a threat except in the dead of night, and how many little kids are out during that time? We have a war with deer, they eat my hydrangea every year, and clean out my figs usually before I have a chance to pick them and figure what to do with them. This past summer was a little better though, I think we stepped up our defenses with a new fence and more lighting in the backyard.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 29, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Tipper–As a hunter and as someone who earns a goodly part of his living writing about hunting, I found this blog particularly interesting. I’m appreciably longer in the tooth than you, but as a boy I was constantly afield. At the time I went off to college in 1960, I had seen precisely 10 deer and no turkeys. Even today I think I could take you to most of the places I saw deer. So you are spot-on when it comes to the increase of these two great game animals. They represent the two greatest wildlife comeback stories of the 20th century.
    On the other hand, you are off track when you suggest the “dramatic increase” in widlife is general. As Pap and I’ll virtually guarantee he’ll tell you there are appreciably fewer rabbits than once was the case. Even more dire is the fate of the bobwhite. That patrician of peafields and broomsedge is all but gone. Grouse also are less plentiful.
    The decline in these small game species comes from a variety of factors–habitat changes, coyotes, the fact that almost no one traps these days, protection of raptros (folks used to shoot “chicken” hawks on sight), and a bunch more–and it is troubling and in th case of the quail likely irreversible.
    On the other hand, as a boy I only dreamed of hunting deer, never mind that turkeys seemed an even greater and more distant dream. Today I’ve killed 262 wild turkeys in more than 30 states and two foreign countries (Yes, I’ve kept count–I have the shell from every bird along with a little story of the hunt in the shell), and even more deer.
    Mostly I harken for the past, but when it comes to hunting, the “good old days” for deer and turkeys are now.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    December 29, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Thanks for puttin’ so much of your
    time and energy for us readers of
    the Blind Pig and the Acorn. About
    every day you have something nice
    to talk about while listening to
    that soothing bluegrass music of
    your bunch.
    Those blooming coyotes have really
    just about wiped out our pheasants
    and you hardly ever hear them beat
    on a log anymore. My fiest jumped
    a couple the other day above my
    house while I was playing in the
    creek. I hadn’t heard that sound
    in awhile…Ken

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    December 29, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Tipper, very interesting blog! Loved the pictures from the web cam. Deer was rare here when I was a child, but now they are everywhere, eating gardens and causing many car accidents. The coyotes are rampant here. We rarely see rabbits now because the coyotes eat them. We don’t actually see the coyotes as much as we see the deer.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    December 29, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Hey Tipper,
    Loved the pictures and stories…hope you can get a cam shot of the cougar…
    My husband and I had been galavatin’ around and about and decided to come home via the long way…over the Blue Ridge Parkway…It had been raining hard and a misty rain was still falling…but not foggy!
    It was a very quite non-traffic day during the middle of the week late in the afternoon..
    Just as we rounded a curve, a large cat crossed our path some ways up in front of our car…we both were startled at what we had just seen….”I knew it.” I said..”That was a cougar!” It was large, tawny colored, with a long tail. I’ll never forget it as long as I live..It was definately a “panter”.
    This was in the eighties or there abouts. I questioned a Smokies Ranger a few years ago about seeing it and cougars being in the area. He said he had never seen one but reliable reports are fairly frequent…
    My friend who lived in an isolated area near the lake here, was quickly washing up dishes before work and glanced out her window, after catching movement in the back yard. It was a large Black Panther…(she is part Cherokee)..she said it seemed to be stalking about..she ran to get her camera and phone to call the sheriff…Why? ’cause she had a four year old that played in the back yard. By the time she took the picture and talked to the sheriff it was gone…The picture was blurred since taken thru a window and screen and the fact that she was shaking! LOL So it was of no use…The sheriff arrived way later and could’nt find any tracks…TWA was notified…and some ‘scoffed’ at her…but she swears it was a black panther to this day…Her nearest neighbor did’nt own any cats.
    Thanks Tipper…
    We are overrun with coyotes, raccoons, possums, skunks, red and grey foxes, rabbits, deer, squirrels, flying squirrels, grouse, guail,…In fact my d/h trapped two nuisance raccoons before Christmas…twern’t small ones either. LOL
    I heard a bobcat squall several years ago, but since the increase in coyotes in the seventies haven’t heard one..
    The screech owls in October will send a shiver up your spine!LOL
    The occasional bear has been thru the area, I’ve never seen one but the logger below where we live has seen them thru the years…

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 29, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I have never seen anything but squirrels and 1 raccoon around our place, but I know there is something making tracks and those horrible noises. I am sure with all the woods around us that there must be other things. A trail cam sounds like a wonderful idea. Maybe I can get my DH to put one up when we come back.

  • Reply
    December 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

    this is really interesting to me, like that idea of the trail cam and am amazed at all the wild life you see and catch with the camera. we are having coyote problems here. i did not even know florida had coyotes but some of our sub divisions have seen them and many dogs and cats are disapearing. i think like you, we have over populated and it is pushing them into our lives, they have no where to go. thanks for a good read

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