Memorable Animals in North Carolina News – 2022 in Review

North Carolina news about animals can be bizarre, and a bit concerning. Perhaps having no state-wide law prohibiting private citizens from owning exotic animals is the reason. But not all the animals making headlines are exotic, some are just local wild animals in unexpected places or farm animals on the run.

Did events in 2022 top last year’s story of the black bear cub in a tree outside a city hospital that an officer lured down after dark with jelly doughnuts and sardines lined up in a sweet-and-savory trail toward the nearest forest? Or was any exotic animal more dangerous than the escaped venom-spitting zebra cobra, native to Africa, and on the loose in Raleigh for seven months that wasn’t even reported missing? Let’s review the past year in memorable animal news to see.

Wild Animals Far from their Native Homes

Doug, the Emu

While emus are flightless birds native to Australia, they are legally owned livestock in North Carolina. At a height of at least 5 feet (1.5 meters), a weight of at least 100 pounds (45 kg), and a speed of 30 miles (50 km) per hour, it’s understandable that they’re difficult to catch and can be dangerous if threatened. Doug did make it home safely and had some explaining to do about the wire fence he snapped.


This omnivore is related to raccoons and is native to South America, Central America, Mexico, and the southwestern U.S. However, the coatimundi was captured running around Raleigh. Their native environment is less like a city and more like a hot and humid rainforest, a grassland, or a cold mountain slope. After a check-up with the local exotic vet and a five-day hold as a stray, the owner was able to pick up this wild animal. For the curious-minded, while coatimundis are legal to own in North Carolina, raccoons, found in abundance across North Carolina, are not.


Although wallabies are native to Australia and New Guinea, that won’t stop a North Carolinian from keeping one as a pet. In fact, a wallaby was seen hopping his way through a neighborhood in Gaston County. While the state does not ban exotic animals, counties can implement regulations. Apparently, in Gastonia, it is illegal for a private citizen to own a wallaby. So, after capturing the animal, Gaston County Animal Control was working to find him a better home.

A Bald Eagle Takes a Plane

While his home is at the World Bird Sanctuary in Missouri, this bald eagle named Clark, was an unusual sight at the Charlotte, North Carolina airport. Not a personal pet, Clark was just returning to the sanctuary after making an appearance at a university in North Carolina.

According to the World Bird Sanctuary website, Clark was born in a breeding program when bald eagles were endangered, but could not be released into the wild due to deformities in his feet. Since Clark wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild, he became a flying ambassador on their Eagle Flight Team instead. Bald eagles are native to North America and some Americans get a little patriotic seeing their national bird.

Animals Not in the Holiday Mood

Cows and Sheep

In religious news, the two cows taking part in a live nativity play at a chapel in Carolina Beach, North Carolina stormed off and ended up in the Cape Fear River. After a 16-hour search by 40 people, they were rescued from the water. The cows were docile compared to the sheep described in one report as “little tanks” after they plowed down some old ladies singing. Maybe the cows and sheep, though naturally dramatic, do not like doing theater.  


Reenacting a scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation a squirrel hid in an indoor Christmas tree, ran through a house, and was chased by a dog in Union County, North Carolina. The squirrel survived the ordeal. Based on the video, the woman of the house may have swept the critter outside.

Good News for Endangered Animals

Red Wolves

Not all the reports on animals in North Carolina were about chaos and mayhem. The conservation and breeding programs had positive announcements. Six red wolves were born in the wild this year at the Alligator River National Wildlife refuge. Red wolves are native to North America and are critically endangered. They used to exist from Texas to Pennsylvania, but now only live in the wild in North Carolina.


Five lemurs were born at the Duke Lemur Center (DLC) whose mission encompasses non-invasive research, conservation, and education. Lemurs are an endangered species native to Madagascar and the DLC cares for over 200 lemurs across 14 species. Close-up baby pictures of a Coquerel’s sifaka lemur, a red ruffed lemur, two mouse lemurs, and a crowned lemur are at the DLC site. For a look at the center and how to take a tour, see below:    

That’s all for the roundup of memorable animals in the news this year in North Carolina. Fortunately, no animal or person was harmed in all these shenanigans and animal babies from two endangered species were born. Since no venomous reptile slithered the city streets this year and no bear cub ran scared outside a city hospital, 2022 seemed to be a better year overall, at least for undomesticated animals in the news.

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