Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in North Carolina. Published by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).
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U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Pungo Unit Regulations and Visitor Information Welcome to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Pungo Unit The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the world’s premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife and plants. Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida’s Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, the System has grown to more than 150 million acres, 553 national wildlife refuges and other units of the Refuge System, plus 38 wetland management districts. For more information visit the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System web page at http://www.fws.gov/refuges/. You are on the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The Pungo Unit is 12,350 acres in size and includes land in Hyde and Washington Counties in North Carolina. The purpose of the Pungo Unit, originally established as Pungo National Wildlife Refuge in 1963, is to provide habitat for migratory, wintering waterfowl. It is an inviolate waterfowl sanctuary, meaning waterfowl are protected from hunting and disturbance. The 2,800-acre Pungo Lake, in the center of the Pungo Unit, is a historic roost site for waterfowl and one of the main attractions for the birds. The lake is shallow, but because the water is naturally dark in color, sunlight does not penetrate and thus very few plants that waterfowl feed on grow in the lake. The birds primarily use the lake for roosting and loafing (hanging out between foraging excursions). The birds forage in the surrounding wetlands and agricultural fields (both on and off of the refuge). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pocosin Lakes National Widllife Refuge PO Box 329 205 South Ludington Drive Columbia, NC 27925 http:/www.fws.gov/pocosinlakes/ There are 1,100 acres of agricultural fields on the Pungo Unit. The Service manages this crop ground via a Cooperative Farming Program. We enter into agreements with local farmers to produce crops in the fields (we alternate corn and soybeans as part of an integrated pest management program and double crop winter wheat in some of the fields). Rather than pay us rent for using the land, the farmers leave a portion of corn standing in the fields for waterfowl and other wildlife to eat. It’s a win/win for all of us, the farmers, the Service, and the critters. A third component of our waterfowl habitat management is our moist soil management program. Moist soil units are impounded areas where we can control water levels to grow native wetland plants that waterfowl eat. We have five moist soil impoundments on the Pungo Unit totaling about 450 acres. The Refuge also provides thousands of acres of forested wetland habitat for wood ducks and other waterfowl species. We can flood some of these areas on the Pungo Unit during the fall and winter to make tree mast even more available for the birds to eat. Migratory, wintering waterfowl (swans, geese, and ducks) begin arriving at the Pungo Unit in October with large numbers arriving in November. Waterfowl numbers continue to grow until they reach their peak, usually in December or January. The Pungo Unit hosts peak numbers well in excess of 100,000 birds annually. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1 800/334 WILD May 2018 Adult tundra swans are large, white birds with black beaks and a small yellow spot on their lores (between the eye and the upper base of the beak). Juveniles are gray. They tend to travel in small groups. They nest in Alaska and western Canada. While most of the waterfowl at Pungo migrate north and south along the Atlantic Flyway, tundra swans migrate across the continent. Northeast North Carolina hosts more than 80% of the eastern subpopulation of tundra swans and peak numbers at Pungo often exceed 25,000. Snow geese are larger than ducks, but smaller than tundra swans. They are white with black wing tips, but there is also a dark color phase known as the blue goose. Snow geese are very gregarious, often flocking together in very large groups. There are several species of ducks on Pungo in the winter including mallard, American black duck, blue-winged and green-winged teal, northern pintail, ringnecked duck, American wigeon, gadwall, and northern shoveler. Wood ducks can be observed year round on the refuge. This is Bear Country! The large areas of contiguous forest on Pungo and the rest of Pocosin Lakes Refuge, along with the supplemental food from crops grown nearby, provide great habitat for American black bears and the Pungo Unit supports one of the highest densities reported anywhere in the scientific literature. Black bears will normally avoid humans but keep in mind that they are wild animals and can be dangerous. Be very cautious around bears. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Do Not Feed Bears! This may lead to bears losing their fear of people which may lead to them having to be destroyed. Do not get anywhere near cubs (mom is usually close by and doesn’t like it!). Try not to startle a bear (they have fair eyesight and hearing and a very keen sense of smell, but you can still surprise them sometimes). Keep all food in a part of your vehicle that will make it difficult for bears to smell, like the trunk (bears have damaged unattended vehicles on the refuge while trying to get to food inside). Treat your trash, and anything else that might smell tasty to bears, the same as food. And, of course, please take your trash out with you. Recreational Opportunities Watching and photographing wildlife is popular on the Pungo Unit. Waterfowl observation (during the winter) and bear watching (nearly year-round) are the most popular, but other birds and wildlife are plentiful on Pungo as well. In addition, there are limited deer and feral hog hunting opportunities and some fishing in the many canals surrounding the lake. Hunting All visitors should be aware that the Pungo Unit is open to deer (and feral hog) hunting during the early part of the North Carolina deer hunting season, including that part of September when the state deer season is open, October, and November (although only archery equipment may be used in November). Hunting on Sundays is not allowed nor is hunting allowed anywhere within Pungo Lake, within 100 yards of the Duck Pen Wildlife Trail, and within 100 yards of the Pungo Lake Observation Platform on the south side of the lake. When Pungo is open to hunting, visitors should exercise extra caution. Stay in your vehicle or on roads and in other open areas where you can be easily seen. And consider wearing blaze orange clothing when away from your vehicle. Access Generally, the Pungo Unit is open for daylight use only. We define daylight as 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset. Official sunrise and sunset times change almost daily and are different as you move east and west. Official sunrise/sunset tables are available on the internet and from other sources. In general, however, you cannot be on the Pungo Unit when it’s dark. There are approximately 44 miles of roads on the Pungo Unit. All of them are dirt surface and can get slippery and rough during wet periods and dusty during dry periods. About half of roads are open to licensed vehicles at least part of the year. Some of these roads are closed to vehicles during the wintering waterfowl season (November through February) and some may be closed to all public entry during that time. Closed roads are shown on the map in this brochure and/or posted with signs. Sometimes, roads have to be temporarily closed because they become impassable. State traffic laws apply on refuge roads when they are open to vehicles. The speed limit on all refuge roads is 25 m.p.h. unless otherwise posted. Unless closed to all public entry, the roads on the Pungo Unit are open for foot travel and bicycling. See the map in this brochure for the location of the following state, county, and refuge roads that can be used to access refuge areas by licensed vehicle: n NC Highway 45, a paved state road. n Pat’s Road, a paved county road. n South Pungo Road, a dirt refuge road. n Hyde Park Road, a dirt refuge road that is gated at the southern refuge boundary and closed to vehicles south of South Pungo Road during the wintering waterfowl season. n D-Canal Road, a dirt refuge road. n Molt Road, a dirt refuge road that is closed to all public entry during the wintering waterfowl season. n West Lake Road, a dirt refuge road that may be closed to vehicles during the wintering waterfowl season. n South Lake Road, a dirt refuge road part of which may be closed to vehicles or all public entry during the wintering waterfowl season. n Refuge Road, a paved county road. n Van Staalduinen Road, a dirt refuge road open to vehicles from Refuge Road to South Pungo Road. Allen Road, on the eastern edge of the Pungo Unit, is normally closed to vehicles because it is difficult to maintain and becomes impassable when wet. Most of Allen Road is within the boundaries of the Pungo Unit and subject to Pungo Unit regulations. There are three locations (two roads and one foot-bridge) along the Pungo Unit section of Allen Road where visitors can walk or bicycle across the Allen Road Canal to refuge lands east of Allen Road and off of the Pungo Unit. However, visitors should note the private lands interspersed in this area and avoid trespassing on these private properties. Other Access Restrictions All of the agricultural fields and moist soil units on the Pungo Unit are closed to all public entry during the wintering waterfowl season (November – February) to prevent waterfowl disturbance. Pungo Lake is closed to all public entry year round; boats are not allowed on Pungo Lake at any time. Waterfowl Observation Although waterfowl can be seen almost anywhere on Pungo during the waterfowl season (November – February), we have designated five observation areas/points that usually provide good waterfowl observation opportunities. Refer to the map in this brochure for locations. 1. Hyde Park Observation Point This area features one of our moist soil management units. Often, millet is planted in part of this impoundment and it sometimes attracts large concentrations of ducks. From November through February, most of the section of Hyde Park Road south of the South Pungo Road intersection is closed to all public entry to prevent waterfowl disturbance in this moist soil unit. However, you can park at the Hyde Park/South Pungo Road intersection (please do not block the gate or roads) and walk a short distance south on Hyde Park Road (to the “Closed Area” signs) to look at the birds. 2. Pungo Lake Observation Platform This elevated platform on the southern tip of Pungo Lake provides unobstructed views of the lake and the surrounding forested wetlands. Large concentrations of waterfowl can sometimes be seen from the platform, usually when the wind is from southerly directions. 3. Pungo Lake Observation Point Take a stroll on the Duck Pen Wildlife Trail out to the Pungo Lake Observation Point on the south-central side of Pungo Lake. Park along the shoulder of South Lake Rd near the trailhead; do not block the road or trail, but be careful to not get off of the road bed as you could easily get your vehicle stuck. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service The trail is approximately ½ mile long leading to an observation/photo blind on the shore of Pungo Lake. Large concentrations of waterfowl can usually be seen on this part of the lake from November through February. Be very quiet as you walk the trail and while in the blind to avoid disturbing and scaring the birds away. Please keep all the cover flaps over the observation holes in the blind closed except when being used (if you’re wondering what the black pipe on the covers is for — it hopefully looks like camera or spotting scopes sticking out of the blind all the time so the birds get used to them and, hopefully, stay close when your lens is sticking out). Stay on the trail and within the fenced areas; all of the surrounding areas are closed to all public entry to protect wildlife. The trail and observation point are open for foot travel only during the waterfowl season; bicycles and pets are not allowed on the trail. 4. West Lake Road Observation Point Located at the south end of West Lake Road (near the intersection with South Lake Rd), this point is a great location for watching waterfowl flying back and forth between Pungo Lake and foraging areas to the west and southwest during the winter. Early morning and late afternoon are often the best times to see these flights. 5. North Lake Woods Observation Area The wooded area between North Lake Road and Pungo Lake provides a naturally concealed area for visitors to see large concentrations of waterfowl on the lake. To prevent disturbance to the birds, you are not allowed to go out of the woods and into the open lakeshore area. Park at the gate on North Lake Road near the D-Canal Road intersection (please do not block the road or gate) and walk east on North Lake Road. About one mile down the road (see a farm road going off to the left) there’s a trail going into the woods on the right leading to Pungo Lake. Less than ½ mile further east on North Lake Road is a small road on the right that also leads to Pungo Lake. General Prohibitions Generally, everything other than those activities specifically authorized are prohibited on national wildlife refuges. Prohibited activities include: n taking wildlife or wildlife parts (eggs, antler sheds, etc.) other than as authorized under our hunting and fishing regulations n entering or being on any portion of Pungo Lake n cutting or removing vegetation n spotlighting (shinning lights, including vehicle headlights, on wildlife) n open fires n All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) except as provided for in our hunting regulations n all commercial activities except as allowed under a Special Use Permit n baiting (placing any food, lure, or attractant on the refuge for any purpose) n littering Our Mission The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. Pocosin Lakes Refuge: Pungo Unit F-2 Road i Legend 5 Information Maintenance compound North Lake Road Observation areas Roads closed to vehicles from Nov-Feb Roads closed to vehicles Roads open to vehicles Pungo Unit boundary Duck Pen Wildlife Trail to Observation Point West Lake Road Areas closed from Nov-Feb Farm fields - closed Nov-Feb Moist soil units - closed Nov-Feb 4 Pungo Lake - closed year round 1 2 3 4 5 Pungo Lake Observation points: 1. Hyde Park Obs Point 2. Pungo Lake Platform 3 D-Canal Road 3. Pungo Lake Obs Point 4. West Lake Road Obs Point 5. North Lake Woods Obs Area South Lake Road Observation areas and routes may be subject to closure at management’s discretion. Park along road edge. Allen Road i 2 i Hyde Park Road N 1 South Pungo Road Pat’s Road Van Staaldulnen Road i NC Highway 45 Refuge Road NC Highway 45 0 Miles 0 Kilo 1.2 1