When Mike Reid was moving to the Shark River Hills section of Neptune earlier this year, he was struck by the wildlife.
“The amount of footprints I saw in my driveway,” Reid said.
“I saw a red fox go by a house about 5:30 (in the morning),” said Reid, 49. “I see a lot of groundhogs and possums.”
And he’s not the only one.
Shea Eastwick, 35, who grew up in the Hills, knows there’s plenty of wildlife in the area.
“Chipmunks, squirrels, birds, the rabbits, raccoons,” Eastwick said. “Recently, a fox has been stopping by. The deer you can catch on South Riverside (Drive) and Brighton (Avenue).”
The state has recorded a pair of nesting bald eagles in the area since 2009. This year, the pair fledged one chick.
“To me, it seems we’re doing something (positive) with the environment to see these birds,” Reid said.
Reid is a fan of birds of prey, such as red-tail hawks and falcons.
“There’s a lot of raptors in the area, which is great,” Reid said. “I’ve been keeping an eye on them my whole life. Seeing them regularly is amazing.”
And there are reports of other wildlife, such as a black bear over the years at Shark River Park.
Shark River Hills runs along the Shark River, basically bordered by Route 18 to the west and the rest surrounded by the Shark River. It has the maritime elements of the river, along with high ground and woods.
“It’s different than the Shore communities,” said Neptune Township Clerk Richard J. Cuttrell, who has lived in the Hills since 1996.
“This part of the area is perfect for wildlife,” Reid said. “We have so many trees. You have a beautiful location (for wildlife) to thrive.
“I came here 10 or 11 years ago to pick up some lobsters for work and I was impressed with the beauty of the place,” said Reid, who manages Clancy’s Tavern in Neptune.
In March, Reid and his wife, Gail, moved from Neptune City, where he lived for 18 years, to the Hills. When he talks to people about wildlife in the Hills, they say “it’s flourishing,” he said.
“It’s a great place to walk,” Reid said.
Since 2010, the bald eagles have fledged five chicks, said Larissa Smith, a biologist with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.
Smith said the pair was at the nest for the first time in 2009, but it had no eggs that year. Since then, they have had fledglings each year, except 2011, when the eggs failed. The best year was 2013, with two fledglings.
While occasionally seeing raccoons and possums, Cuttrell said rabbits have proliferated.
“About three or four years ago, the rabbits showed up,” Cuttrell said. “A lot of birdlife. I jog along the river (and) there’s always people out with cameras, binoculars (looking for birds).”
“Can you ask for a nicer place than this?” Reid said. “And it’s Neptune, a working man’s town.”