There are hundreds of species of wildlife on the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, including the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and insect that are all connected to one another in the refuge’s food web. The largest animals that you might see along Sandy Ridge Trail are black bear and white-tailed deer. Both species live throughout the refuge. Black bear feed primarily on fruit from trees and shrubs, insects, and grain from the crop fields. They cross the path and boardwalk and leave foot prints as they cross. White-tailed deer browse the leaves of trees and shrubs and graze on native grasses and wildflower plants. They also eat acorns and grain.
Otters live in Milltail Crek and the ditch along the trail. They eat crayfish, fish, crabs, and frogs. Otters nest in the bases of hollow trees as well as in the dens of other animals. They move mostly along waterways, but will cross the trail on their way from the ditch to the Creek. Raccoons and opossums both are likely to be observed in trees along the trail. Raccoons eat a diverse diet of fish, amphibian, bird eggs, insects, worms, fruits, and nuts. They live in tree cavities or burrows in the ground. Opossums eat carrion, mice, birds, insects, worms, snakes, grass, nuts, and fruit. They also live in tree cavities and burrows in the ground.
The trail and boardwalk represent openings in the forest where sunlight reaches the ground and the surface of the boardwalk and heat up the areas. Cold blooded species such as snakes and lizards are attracted to these warm spots in their habitats. Most snakes on the refuge are not venomous, but cottonmouths, also known as water moccasins, are venomous and do sun themselves in these openings.
There are dozens of species of butterflies and wild bees that reside on the refuge and collect pollen ad nectar from flowers along the trail. They are most obvious on blueberry flowers in the spring and on the flowering marsh plants pickerelweed and duck potato in the summer, and coastal sweet pepperbush in the late summer.