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The fencing of Ocracoke

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Public access to the water in Ocracoke village is at the community square docks, above, and the National Park Service areas near the ferry docks. Photo: C. Leinbach
Public access to the water in Ocracoke village is at the community square docks, above, and the National Park Service areas near the ferry docks. Photo: C. Leinbach

Editor’s note: A North Carolina Court of Appeals has reversed a February 2020 decision from a Camden County Superior Court judge, ruling on Tuesday that a private walkway, although used for years by the public to access the beach, is, in fact, private. Read the story in the OBX Voice here.

No doubt, the world is complicated with simple solutions harder to come by, and Ocracoke is not exempt.

Although many have looked fondly on Ocracoke with its few local regulations, it is time to examine whether something is needed so all can have a clear understanding of what one can and cannot do.

Ocracoke is a small community with a school of about 170 students, two churches, one vehicle repair shop, one gas station and no traffic lights other than a few that inform you of your speed.

It is also a high-profile tourist destination with visitors in-season numbering in the thousands.

Islanders welcome visitors. The majority of them respect the community and many friendships have developed over the years.

But there are times when clashes occur. Loud noise late into the night, drinking and hot dogging on golf carts are some examples.

There are also times when people trespass onto private property, especially to get to the Pamlico Sound. North Carolina law says the public has a right to any beaches up to the mean high tide lines but getting to these beaches via private property can cause problems and hard feelings. Just because people have been “doing it for years” doesn’t mean it’s right.

This came to a head after people using vacant lots on the sound side as a campground, barbecue place or public toilet prompted the owners of one of these lots to install a chain link fence around their property.

Adjacent to this lot is one with a well-worn path—also on private property–that has been used to get to a small beach area.

The fence installation caused a storm on several Facebook pages with both islanders and off-islanders taking almost every position possible, such as defending private property rights and the poor aesthetics of the chain link fence.

Could the lot with the trail be made into a public park like Springer’s Point, which is owned by Coastal Land Trust, a nonprofit out of Wilmington?

Well, maybe, but not by the Trust, which is not in the business of purchasing random lots, said Janice Allen, director of land protection. The Trust manages more than 80,000 acres and does not have the resources to deal with separate lots. If this lot abutted Springer’s Point, that might be a different story, she said.

A newly installed fence and sign along sound front properties are meant to deter trespassers. Photo: C. Leinbach

One business owner suggested that the county purchase this particular lot and create a park.

But Hyde County barely has enough money to pay for the services it does provide let alone purchase and deal with a public park on Ocracoke.

In the village, there’s much more privately owned property than is public around the harbor, North Pond and the sound and many bemoan that shortcoming, with Springer’s Point the exception.

Indeed, being close to the natural world, or living on the edge as we like to put it—there’s way less civilization here–is one of the chief appeals of Ocracoke. 

But since the 1950s, the island has changed from a fishing economy to a booming tourism economy.

In the last year, despite a worldwide pandemic, Ocracoke and the Outer Banks saw steady visitation and an unprecedented real estate boom as more people bought houses to live here or as rental investments or lots on which to build new ones.

The summertime passenger ferry brings the day visitors businesses have clamored for since the ride on the Hatteras ferry became longer in 2013.

While these visitors want to shop, they also want to visit the beach and can’t do so via golf carts.

Islanders chafe at rules and regulations, yet this is something Ocracoke needs to grapple with: Who are we going to be and how do we deal with growth (development) and change?

The only government is Hyde County overseen by five elected commissioners, one of whom is from Ocracoke; but it is not his job to manage the island.

Most county offices are in Swan Quarter 23 miles away across the sound.

The island receives periodic visits by county agencies, which have been greatly curtailed due to COVID-19, but the county manager continues to make regular visits to the island.

For the island’s commissioner, Randal Mathew, that is not enough, and he said in a recent interview that he is pressing for a fulltime county liaison for Ocracoke.

Islanders and property owners need recourse other than Facebook when problems arise. 

Ocracoke has no zoning and the Ocracoke Development Ordinance, which barely addresses development issues, years ago enshrined a minimum lot size of 5,000 square feet leading to the declining green space in the village.

Is it time for Ocracoke to become the first incorporated town in all of Hyde County and with all the attendant ramifications, such as having regulatory standards and requirements?

Possibly, but that would require more government and more taxes.

In the meantime, let’s all be respectful to each other.  One of our good human traits is that friendliness and smiles can go a long way to avoid the stressful moments that anger and confrontation inevitably create.

All NC residents over 16 eligible for shot starting April 7

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Graphic by NCDHHS

Reprinted courtesy of OBX Voice

On the day before all North Carolina residents age 16 and older become eligible for a COVID vaccination, Gov. Roy Cooper laid out a generally positive view of the status of the outbreak in the state.

The key COVID-19 metrics “have remained stable over the last month,” he said at a Tuesday (April 6) press briefing, while cautioning that, “we need to be careful and responsible” in mitigating the spread of the virus.

In her review of the four key COVID-19 metrics, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen noted that the number of cases of COVID in the state “have leveled,” something she saw as good news given that some other states are seeing notable increases in cases.

On Tuesday, NCDHHS reported 870 cases of COVID-19, which appears to be the fewest cases in a single day since early October.

The NCDHHS’s County Alert System has been updated as of March 27 and there are no longer any North Carolina counties in the red zone, which equates to critical community spread of the virus.

In this update, Hyde County remains in the yellow category (significant community spread) it occupied after the mid-March update.

As of Friday, April 1, Hyde County Health Department reported two active COVID-19 cases, up from zero on March 27.

Neighbors to the north Dare County and Currituck County are among the 21 counties in the state in the orange category in the graphic meaning substantial community spread of the virus. That’s going the wrong direction from the yellow status they were both assigned in the last update on March 18.

Hyde County commissioners to meet Wednesday night

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The Hyde County Board of Commissioners meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, April 5, via the Hyde County Public Information Facebook page.

The Hyde County Board of Commissioners will hold their monthly meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 7, in the government services center in Swan Quarter and online.

Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, public attendance at Hyde County Board of Commissioners Meetings will be provided electronically. The meeting will be available to watch via Facebook Live or listen to via a phone dial-in for those without reliable internet access. Video of the meeting will also be posted to its website, http://www.hydecountync.gov as soon as possible following the meeting.

The commissioners are accepting public comments for all meetings and hearings via a web submission at https://forms.gle/qWzxU8EXfaQDahWp6 or by leaving a voicemail at 252-926-5288. Submissions must be received at least one hour prior to the start of the meeting for the first public comment period. Submissions submitted after that and prior to the second public comment period will be read or played during the second public comment period. Comments on Facebook are not considered public comments for the meeting as they are not always monitored.

The live stream will begin when the meeting is called to order. You do not need to be a Facebook member to view the live stream. Viewers can access the county’s Facebook page by going to the following website https://www.facebook.com/HydeCountyNC.

To use the dial-in option, call 605-562-0400 or 717-275-8940, enter the following access code 882 1001, and press #. These are not toll-free numbers but you are typically not charged for long-distance when using a cellular phone.

The agenda is below and background information is available on the Hyde County website here.

Ocracoke students achieve honors

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Ocracoke School recently acknowledged the academic achievements of its students for the third nine-week period that ended recently. Below are the lists for students’ high grades on a 1 to 100 scale.

Ocracoke School students are learning in socially distanced classrooms. Photo by Leslie Cole

Game-changing Starlink internet technology lands on Ocracoke

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Heather O’Neal with her Starlink ‘Dishy.’ Photo by Richard Taylor

To catch up on Ocracoke news and much more, click here

By Richard Taylor

After struggling with often slow or freezing internet connections following Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic, 47 Ocracoke school students and teachers will now have access to a new, cutting-edge high-speed satellite internet service.

This novel pilot program — among the first in the nation — will greatly improve remote learning infrastructure, when future conditions force Ocracoke School to close for in-person instruction.

Futuristic, low Earth-orbit (LEO) satellite technology from Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink system will soon shift the imbalance here where currently poorer rural students often get the worst internet service.

In a March 29 WOVV interview, Hyde County School Superintendent Steve Basnight explained how the combination of need, determination, location and state and federal grant support puts Hyde County in front with respect to rural broadband connectivity.

“We happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Basnight told radio host Peter Vankevich, explaining how rural Hyde County got involved with the SpaceX Starlink system. “An opportunity to pilot this new technology came up to through the remote learning working group in the governor’s office last year. At the time, there was only one other school group in Texas doing this. We had the opportunity to be one of the first three schools to ever do this and we jumped on it.”

Basnight had committed to bringing reliable high-speed, high-quality Internet connectivity to Hyde County at the beginning of this school year.

The state wanted to see what kind of service they could get in the mountains, because broadband service is terrible there. They also wanted to see how this technology would work in flat unobstructed terrain.

“I’ve got the perfect place for you,” Basnight told the state. “It’s an island where everybody’s basically within about a mile and a half of everyone else.”

Steve Basnight talks on WOVV about the Starlink pilot program for Ocracoke. Photo by Richard Taylor

Swain County Schools, southwest of Asheville, hosts the state’s other Starlink pilot project.

The advanced Starlink ground terminals can be self-installed. The round 23-inch dish (called “Dishy”) mounts to a small tripod in a yard or on a porch. Roof mounts are available. Dishy connects to an inside Wi-Fi modem/router via a 100-foot ethernet cable.

Once set up, Dishy’s internal motor aligns itself to Starlink’s ever-growing constellation of 570-pound suitcase-sized satellites orbiting 340 miles above Earth.

Satellites communicate with a series of terrestrial ground stations to access the internet.

Having so far launched about 1,400 satellites, SpaceX plans to surround the earth with more than 12,000, with the option to launch up to 42,000 more.

These small satellites ride to space aboard Falcon 9 rockets from several stateside space launch facilities. The last 60-satellite cluster blasted off March 24 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Basnight said Ray Zeisz, director of the Friday Institute Technology Infrastructure Lab at N.C. State University, was instrumental in bringing together various funding sources and state agencies into a framework, which could quickly bring this high-tech, high-impact project to fruition. Zeisz raised $88,000 through state and federal funding to purchase the 47 Ocracoke Starlink systems.

Zeisz wanted to study the technology of this pilot project from the state’s perspective, and it’s all free to Hyde for now.

“Ray purchased the Starlink hardware and gave the units to Hyde County Schools,” Basnight said. “He also covered the cost of the service at $99/monthly per user for one year.”  The two are working on a grant for another year of service.

A cluster of 60 Starlink satellites before launch. Photo by SpaceX

“Many students live far from cellular or fiber networks,” Zeisz said, in a press release from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office. “By using Starlink, these remote students will soon have access equal to the educational resources of their peers who live in more densely populated areas.”

Besides the governor’s office, the N.C. Department of Information Technology Broadband Infrastructure Office and other state agencies also helped implement the two-site “Satellite Internet Technologies for Student Connectivity Pilot” project.

Basnight is excited about the prospects for this program.

“This technology is extremely simple to use,” he said. “You can do it all from an app on your phone. For the first time ever, the majority of our students will have a reliable broadband connection in their homes.”

Reliable internet will be crucial when student have to stay at home for weather events.

“High-speed internet is a critical tool that our students need to succeed in these challenging times and into the future,” said Gov. Roy Cooper in a recent press release. “Innovative programs like this pilot with SpaceX can connect students and residents to high-quality, reliable internet service to help with remote learning, telehealth, job opportunities and more.”

Basnight and Ocracoke’s county commissioner Randal Mathews set up the island’s first dish on March 26 at school Student Support Services Administrator Nancy Leach’s home.

“I downloaded the Starlink App to my phone and started messing with it and thought, ‘How am I’m going to aim this thing,’ Mathews said. “After a few minutes the dish aimed itself.”

Mathews, a former CenturyLink network technician, praised the system. He and Basnight have been working to improve internet connectivity on Ocracoke since Hurricane Dorian hit Sept. 6, 2019.

A Falcon 9 rocket with 60 Starlink satellites aboard lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, 4:28 a.m. EDT, March 24, 2021. Photo by Stephen Clark, Spaceflight Now.

“Putting cable in the ground is expensive,” Mathews said. “The more you can go wireless, the more sustainable and cheaper it is.”

Basnight noted that minutes after Leach’s terminal was fired-up, the system began getting internet speeds of over 140 megabits/second. Typical internet speed on Ocracoke with CenturyLink is about 25 megabits.

Mathews said the Starlink system will experience occasional signal loss while waiting for the next satellite to pass over. As more satellites are placed in orbit in months to come, reliability will improve.

“It’s good now, but we’re expecting some phenomenal things over the next year or two,” Basnight said.

Most of the county’s 47 Starlink earth terminals will go to students now using cellular mobile hotspots. “We wanted to identify the students for whom we had provided mobile hot spots during this remote learning period, because those were the ones we targeted as having the least access to usable internet,” Basnight said. “Reliable internet access is an absolute necessity in today’s student learning environment.”

They also included Ocracoke teaching staff in the pilot to get a cross section of family units and for feedback to the Friday Institute.

Ocracoke School Teacher Assistant Heather O’Neal has three children in school experimenting with the service — Maranda, William and Brandt.

“I lose connection to my desktop a lot,” O’Neal said on Friday. “Streaming to my TV will buffer and wait to load. The best speed I’ve had on the Starlink is 230 (Megabits/second).” Her lowest:15 Mb/sec.

O’Neal logs speed test images on her phone. “I’m enjoying it,” she said. “I know it’s a work in progress, but I’m excited to see how it benefits everybody.”

Principal Leslie Cole said students had repeatedly experienced issues with consistent Internet in their homes following Dorian and during the pandemic.

“I’m happy to be part of this pilot and I really appreciate Mr. Basnight for all his time and dedication to get us to this point,” she said. “It’s super exciting for the county.”

Basnight was also excited about expanded wireless broadband service coming soon to mainland Hyde, using newly available TV white-space frequencies in partnership with RiverStreet Networks.

“This is pretty phenomenal that Hyde County has got two really cutting-edge broadband technologies on either side of the water,” the superintendent said.  “This new, easy-to-use internet connectivity will be a game changer for the students and families on Ocracoke Island.”

Starlink satellites are ready to deploy March 24. Photo by SpaceX

To watch the Jan 20 SpaceX Starlink launch from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, click here. This video shows the complete sequence of the Falcon 9/Starlink launch from pre-launch to satellite deployment.

Click here to watch just the Starlink 60-satellite cluster deployment in orbit, June 30, 2020.

COVID-19 vaccination clinics scheduled for April 13 on Ocracoke and Engelhard

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The Ocracoke Health Center will hold a COVID-19 vaccination clinic April 13.

Para leer en español, vea a continuación.

The Ocracoke Health Center and Engelhard Medical Center will host a Covid-19 vaccination clinic on April 13 for patients aged 18 and up.

No appointment is required but, anyone wishing to get a vaccine will have to be registered as a patient of the facility. Registration materials will be available at the event.

The centers will administer the Moderna vaccine, which is a two-dose series separated by 28 days.

Ocracoke will offer vaccinations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until vaccines run out.

Engelhard will offer vaccinations from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. or until vaccines run out.

Each facility has a limited number of vaccines available and will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Engelhard Medical Center will hold a COVID-19 vaccination clinic April 13.

En español
Para NOTICIAS EN ESPAÑOL, haga clic aquí

El Centro de Salud Ocracoke y el Centro Médico Engelhard albergarán una clínica de vacunación Covid-19 el 13 de abril para pacientes mayores de 18 años.
No se requiere cita previa, pero cualquier persona que desee vacunarse deberá registrarse como paciente de la instalación. Los materiales de registro estarán disponibles en el evento.
Los centros administrarán la vacuna Moderna, que es una serie de dos dosis separadas por 28 días.
Ocracoke ofrecerá vacunas de 9 a.m. a 4 p.m. o hasta que se acaben las vacunas.
Engelhard ofrecerá vacunas a partir de la 1 p.m. a las 4 p.m. o hasta que se acaben las vacunas.
Cada instalación tiene un número limitado de vacunas disponibles y se administrarán por orden de llegada.

Winnie Blount, matriarch of one Black family on Ocracoke

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Portrait of Winnie Blount. Photo courtesy of Ocracoke Preservation Society

To catch up on Ocracoke news and much more, click here

By Connie Leinbach

Among the unusual street names on Ocracoke is one named Winnie Blount Road, which is off Cedar Lane alongside the bank.

Across the way is Bryant Lane, off Lighthouse Road, which is named after the Blounts’ children.

Winnie Bragg Blount and her husband Harkus (Hercules) Blount were former slaves who moved to Ocracoke after the Civil War ended in 1865 while other former slaves who had lived and labored on the island fled.

According to Alton Ballance’s 1989 book “Ocracokers,” the 1790 census, which covered Portsmouth and Ocracoke, listed 31 slaves. The 1800 census, which applied only to Ocracoke, listed 16 slaves; the 1810 census, 39 and the 1820 census, 57.

For more than 100 years, members of the Blount family were the only African Americans to live on Ocracoke.

While Aunt Winnie, as she was called by islanders, worked as a domestic, Harkus came from Blount’s Creek in Beaufort County and worked on the island as a carpenter and boat builder.

Of the couple’s 12 children, only two — Annie Laura and Elsie Jane — lived to adulthood.

In the late 1800s, Jane married Leonard Bryant, who was born in Engelhard and was a coworker at the Doxsee Clam factory, which was located near the entrance to the harbor.

They chose to stay on Ocracoke. They had nine children, including Muzel Bryant, known on the island as Muzie, who was born in 1904 and died at the age of 103 in 2008.

Jane and Leonard purchased a large tract of land from Mary Jane Bragg, the daughter of John Bragg, with whom Aunt Winnie appears to have had a connection.  That tract is now honored with their name, Bryant Lane, off Lighthouse Road.

Aunt Winnie and Harkus built a small frame home on their land, just south of where the Island Inn sits today.

Few details about their lives exist and no photographs of Harkus Blount have survived.

According to Mildred Bryant, Muzie’s sister, as related in “Ocracokers,” Winnie, who lived to the age of 105, cured and sold yaupon leaves, which were used to make tea.

Yaupon leaves prepared by Pat Garber are available in the Ocracoke Preservation Society museum shop, which is scheduled to open March 15.

Today, Ocracoke continues to honor the history of this important island family.

While the Blount homestead may be gone, Winnie Blount Road is named in Aunt Winnie’s honor.

The Winnie Blount road sign. Photo courtesy of Ocracoke Preservation Society.

Public comments sought on carp removal from Lake Mattamuskeet

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Lake Mattamuskeet. Photo: P. Vankevich

From our news services

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public input on a draft environmental assessment for the removal of invasive carp from Lake Mattamuskeet on mainland Hyde County.

Fish and Wildlife is seeking comments on the benefits and impacts from maximum carp removal and commercial fishing as one of the tools to remove carp from Lake Mattamuskeet and the four outfall canals.  

According the studies, carp removal is directly related to the biological integrity of the lake. An overabundance of carp has resulted in severe reduction of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and consequently an increase in nutrients and reduction in water clarity. Removing carp will allow SAV to recover and promote an increase in overall ecological health of the lake ecosystem.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. These actions include decisions on permit applications, adopting federal land management actions, and constructing highways and other publicly owned facilities.

Using the NEPA process, the refuge can evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of these proposed actions.  

National Wildlife Refuges are required by law to determine the compatibility of any proposed or existing use with the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System and the purpose for which a particular refuge was established.

“The mission of Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge is to protect migratory birds and other native wildlife and their breeding grounds and habitat for the benefit of the American people,” Refuge Manager Kendall Smith, said. “We want the community to be informed about the work being proposed and to have an opportunity to weigh in on the pros and cons of that work.”  

To review the draft Environmental Assessment and draft Compatibility Determination, copies are available at:   

https://fws.gov/ncgatewayvc/images/publications/DRAFT_CD_Mattamuskeet_Commercial Fishing to Remove Carp.pdf
and
https://fws.gov/ncgatewayvc/images/publications/Draft_EA Mattamuskeet_Maximum Carp Removal.pdf

Written comments may be sent to: Refuge Manager, Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge 85 Refuge Road, Swan Quarter, NC 27885, or email: mattamuskeet@fws.gov.

All comments must be submitted no later than 4 p.m. on April 29.

For more information, or to request documents in alternative formats, please contact Refuge Manager Kendall Smith at 252-926-4021 x43901 or Wildlife Biologist Wendy Stanton at 252-926-4021 x43904.  

Rescued Bald Eagle had lead poisoning

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This disabled Bald Eagle on Ocracoke suffered from lead poisoning. Photo by Rebecca Carbis

To catch up on Ocracoke news and much more, click here

By Rita Thiel

Bald Eagles are exciting to see but one of these visitors on Ocracoke didn’t fare so well.

In early February, Melinda Sutton noticed an odd-looking cat on top of one of the feeding stations behind her Tradewinds Tackle shop.

Not having her contacts in, she said, she didn’t have the clearest view, and when she approached it, she saw a large bird–a Bald Eagle.

Noticing her approach, the eagle did not fly away nor did it seem to be afraid.

As Sutton watched, he jumped to the ground and began walking toward her, and after turning in circles a few times and attempting to fly, the eagle made its way to the back dock of the post office. 

Thinking that this eagle was not exhibiting normal behavior and was in trouble, Sutton called wildlife rescuer Rebecca Carbis for help.

Sutton kept an eye on the eagle as it jumped off the post office loading dock and eventually into the edge of the woods.

“I felt incredibly blessed to have seen such a regal bird up close,” she said. “Even as he was stomping through the marsh, he was majestic.”

When Carbis arrived, she and friend Kyle Miller found the eagle literally “butt in the marsh” not moving. 

Carbis, who had wildlife rehabilitation certification when she lived in Georgia and hopes to obtain North Carolina certification, began trying to capture it.

“This beautiful bald eagle had me wading through brambles and marshes for over two hours trying to get to it,” Carbis said. 

Eventually they captured the eagle, and after securing it in a large box, Carbis drove it to Lou Browning at Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Frisco for treatment.

This encounter shows the danger for people approaching raptors or any wild birds or animals.

Jim Warren, executive director of the North Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville, Mecklenburg County, cautioned people should be extremely careful when trying to rescue any raptor (bird of prey) and especially Bald Eagles.

“These injured birds do not understand you want to help them,” he said. “Rather, they view you as a predator and will react accordingly.”

Trained staff use welder gloves for protection against dangerous talons.

Carbis posted updates on the eagle’s progress on Facebook noting that the bird had significant lead poisoning, causing damage to one eye that affected his ability to fly and hunt, as well as signs that it had been grounded for a while as it was underweight and in rough shape.

If the bird could not recover from these issues it would have to be euthanized.

“The eagle came in with severe blood poisoning from lead along with facial wounds and scratches and cuts on the talons and feet, possibly from territorial battles,” Browning said in an interview.

He verified the retinal detachment and determined the bird was a male.

Its severe condition made it unreleasable, Browning said, and untamable for educational purposes.

Before it became disabled, the Eagle was spotted Jan. 1 off South Point Road. Photo: C. Leinbach

He shipped the eagle to the Cape Fear Raptor Center, which euthanized the bird.

“It’s an unhappy outcome, but it’s the way it had to be,” he said.

Lead poisoning is an increasing problem for all birds of prey and waterfowl, which can be a health issue for humans.

Browning said nine in 10 injured eagles have lead poisoning, but he only sees about six a year.

“The number is going up,” he said. “Hatteras is loaded with (eagles).”

In 1991, federal legislation was enacted restricting the use of lead shot for hunting waterfowl on federal land.

A study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that even after the ban, lead toxicity in eagles increased, especially during deer hunting seasons.  Once in the environment, lead does not dissipate. 

Eagles, ospreys, hawks, owls, vultures and other scavenger animals have fallen victim to lead ammunition in “gut piles from deer cleans,” especially at this time of the year, Browning said.

One solution is for hunters to use steel or copper pellets for shotguns and rifles.

Once ingested, lead becomes toxic. As the toxicity levels rise in the birds, their ability to take flight quickly is affected, leading to many being hit by cars.

Raptors’ ability to hunt decreases to a critical level, leading many to starvation or dehydration, followed by seizures caused by neurological damage and death.

If the poisoned birds are found in time and lead levels haven’t led to irreparable neurological damage, treatments can be successful, Browning said. 

The Cape Fear Raptor Center treated seven eagles for lead poisoning in a month’s time from January to February last year.

Browning said that if people see raptors or owls just sitting along the sides of roads that can mean the birds are suffering from lead poisoning, but not always.

Once ingested, lead becomes toxic. As the toxicity levels rise in the birds, their ability to take flight quickly is affected, leading to many being hit by cars.

Red Tail Hawks, after feeding may sometimes sit quietly while digesting, he said. The telltale sign of this is a bunch of feathers around the bird.

There are a lot of federal regulations around eagles, Browning said.

“Eagles are the most protected bird in the United States and of national significance to native Americans,” Browning said.

Dead eagles are sent to the National Eagle Repository in Commerce City, Colorado, as a legally regulated method for Native American tribes to obtain eagle parts for use in various cultural rituals.

Even eagle feathers are protected, as Carbis noted.

She said, “There were some loose feathers in the box (in which she transported the bird) and I had to leave them there.”

No matter where in the state, people can call the Raptor Medical Center directly for injured and orphaned raptor 704-875-6521 x111. More information is on the center’s website: http://www.carolinaraptorcenter.org.

On Ocracoke, for injured birds, call Carbis at 678-558-7899.

State to speed up COVID-19 vaccine distribution

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From our news services

The state will speed up the COVID-19 vaccine distribution timeline by moving Groups 4 and 5 for vaccine eligibility with the rest of Group 4 eligible on March 31 and all North Carolina adults aged 16 and over will be eligible beginning April 7.

Gov. Roy Cooper and North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D., announced the accelerated vaccine timeline during a Thursday press conference.

“In the next couple of months, we’ll have enough supply for everyone who wants a vaccine to get one,” Cooper said. “And when that happens, each of us is going to have to talk to our friends and family who are hesitating about getting vaccinated and convince them to do it because the vaccine is our path to recovery.”

Beginning on March 31, additional essential workers and people living in other congregate settings such as student dormitories will be eligible for vaccination.

Ocracoke residents are urged to register for a vaccine at the Ocracoke Health Center. Call 252-489-3622.

As of today (March 26), Hyde County Health Department reports no active COVID-19 cases.

To see the current status of full and partial vaccinations statewide, click here.

A new public private partnership, Healthier Together: Health Equity Action Network, will enhance the state’s equitable delivery of vaccines.  Healthier Together will conduct outreach and education efforts, coordinate local vaccine events, help people schedule and get to vaccine appointments, provide on-site translation services, and help ensure people get to second dose appointments.

A new report expands upon this work. Promoting COVID-19 Vaccine Equity in North Carolina reports the share of vaccinations in the past week going to Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and American Indian or Alaskan Native populations as well as key metrics for promoting accountability through data transparency. The report will be updated every two weeks.

According to state data, the weekly average of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continued to fall Thursday, reaching a level not seen since last October.

After steadily declining since January, the seven-day average of new cases has started to level off in the last week, hovering between 1,600 and 1,800 new cases each day.

Since Tuesday, the seven-day average has climbed slightly, from an average of 1,693 new cases over the past week to 1,723 new cases.

Over the last week, North Carolina hospitals have reported an average of 957 people hospitalized with COVID-19 per day. The seven-day average of hospitalizations has steadily declined since Jan. 18.

For accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov or the NCDHHS COVID information hub.

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