While on the Wildlife Drive, you may hear and see military aircraft flying overhead or nearby. If you drive south on HWY 264, you will pass the Dare County Bombing Range. The range is sort of the “hole in the middle of the donut” for the refuge. Refuge land completely surrounds the range.
Within the 152,195-acre refuge, the 47,000-acre bombing range is where both the Air Force and the Navy conduct aerial training maneuvers. Strangely enough, wildlife mostly seem unaffected by their activities. Sometimes, habitat is actually improved, when a small fire is started by accident! This helps to maintain the health of the range’s Pocosin habitat, which is a fire dependent habitat. Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge was established long after the bombing range was in place back in the early '60s. Refuge staff work closely with the Department of Defense. Although they maintain the range primarily for the purpose of national defense, they also provide habitat for wildlife. Range land has been a real Mecca for many species of wildlife, including black bears and Red Cockaded Woodpeckers in particular. The Red Cockaded Woodpecker is an unusual species whose habitat really requires frequent fires. In general, these woodpeckers need the more open understory conditions that are associated with a fire-maintained environment.