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Spring Nesting Season at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Breeds Vandalism


In what's being called the "first deliberate vandalism incident" of the spring nesting season at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, someone drove through a resource closure area set up to protect a pair of nesting American Oystercatchers.

As a result, seashore officials have enlarged the footprint of the closed area by 50 meters on the north side of the original closed area as called for under a consent decree agreed upon to protect nesting sea turtles and shorebirds.

Seashore officials say the vandalism was discovered by Park Service bird monitoring staff on Thursday and is being investigated by law enforcement personnel. The expansion of the closed area was implemented on Friday.

According to a release from the seashore, "the incident occurred at the north end of the resource closure located 0.8 of a mile south of Ramp 38. Tire tracks and footprints were observed in the area where five wooden closure signs were found broken and a 4X4 post was pulled out of the ground. The red-and-white colored rope connecting the posts into the tidal zone was removed and missing. Tire tracks were observed traveling through the closure."

Under the court-ordered consent decree, "if a confirmed deliberate act that disturbs or harasses wildlife or vandalizes fencing, nests, or plants occurs, NPS shall automatically expand the buffer by 50 meters on the first offense, 100 meters on the second, and 500 meters on the third."

However, the Park Service is not required to expand the buffer if the responsible individuals are caught. If a buffer has been expanded because of vandalism, and subsequent information leads to violator apprehension, the Park Service may retract the expansion.

NPS law enforcement personnel continue to investigate the incident. If anyone has information about any of these violations, please call Dare Community Crime Line at 252-473-3111. Destruction of government property and entering a resource closure are federal criminal violations, each subject up to a $5,000.00 fine and up to six months imprisonment.

For up-to-date information on currently open or closed areas, check the Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s Google Earth maps at:


My husband and I are volunteers for both the National Park Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. At the moment we have been volunteering in Rhode Island for the Piping Plover project here. Beach closures occur mid April and early May in Rhode Island and there is NO beach driving until September. I am proud to say that on all the beaches for the last several weeks beach closures have been observed and respected. The closures protect the birds, the people who use the beach and keeps the beach healthy. Small invertebrates and other creatures that live along the wrack line in the sand can survice and contribute to a healthy ocean environment.

The automatic expansion of the closed area is a useful concept for management of offroad vehicles in the West, as well as on beaches. Too often the ORV riders just scoff at closures set by land management agencies, knowing that law enforcement officers are few and far between. Automatic expansion gives offroaders an added incentive to comply with the law.

It is worse than that here. Feral cats have been dumped in the vicinity of breeding birds in the Park. Raccoons have been transplanted to Ocracoke Island to start a population where they have not been before. A fox suspiciously appeared in the morning in the middle of Cape Point surround by ORVs.

All of these incidents were for the purpose of doing harm to indigenous birds in the Park. There are numerous signs on Off Road vehicles inferring that harm be done to piping plovers. Abet this is done by a small minority of the beach driving crowd but it is knowingly condone by a majority of them.

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