Bird Nests and Closures Spurring Civil Disobedience at Cape Hatteras National Seashore

How successful is the government's settlement of a lawsuit to protect threatened shorebirds and turtles from ORVs at Cape Hatteras National Seashore? NPS photo.

As more nesting plovers and oystercatchers lead to more temporary beach closures at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, it appears more folks are acting in civil disobedience to protest the closures.

The closures were authorized earlier this spring as part of a settlement aimed at finding a compromise between off-road vehicle use on the national seashore and those worried about threatened bird and turtle species being endangered by that traffic.

Of course, not everyone supports that settlement. Acts of vandalism and civil disobedience might be doing more harm than good for ORV enthusiasts, though, as the settlement allows the National Park Service to extend the size of closures when vandalism occurs.

Rangers on June 4th closed another section of the park beach due to a plover hatch. On Thursday, June 5th, several visitors expressed opposition to this closure. One person deliberately entered the area and was dealt with by law enforcement personnel.

Meanwhile, the size of another closed area was expanded due to an oystercatcher hatch.

On Friday, June 6th, the seashore reports that two people entered a closed area and were contacted by protection rangers. Uniformed personnel were stationed at Ramp 43 during peak visitor use hours over the weekend to prevent intrusions and provide information. A special use permit was granted for a group of 50 people who are opposed to the consent decree for a social event at Ramp 43. There were no incidents.


Good: the more closures the better. Too many people, not enough critters,...and not enough quiet space. Thank you GT

Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Resource Management Weekly Field Summary; May 29 – June 4, 2008
(Bodie Island, Hatteras, and Ocracoke Districts)

This week 26 PEDESTRIAN Intrusions were reported, 2 at Bodie Island, 21 at Hatteras, and 3 at Ocracoke.....1 ORV intrusion at Bodie Island, and 1 at Hatteras....3 others * Kiteboarder was flying kite over closure south of Ramp 27. Pedestrians entered the same closure with a dog. Three bicyclists were found in the South Point closure on Ocracoke.

PIPL Update:
Bodie Island:
When Nest 6 was exclosed on 5/29 it was discovered that one of the eggs from the three-egg clutch was lost to probable avian predation. Both adults accepted the exclosure and incubation of the remaining two eggs continues.

Hatteras Island:
At Cape Point, Nest 4 hatched and the three chick brood is being monitored. Nest 5 (3 egg nest) continues to be incubated. Nest 9 was discovered on 6/3 as a single-egg nest and will likely be exclosed on 6/7 or 6/8. There is possibly another pair which is ranging from Cape Point to South Beach.

No PIPLs were observed at Hatteras Inlet this week.

Ocracoke Island:
No PIPL breeding activity was observed on the north end of the island, although 1 bird was seen foraging at the inlet. On the south end of the island, there are three active PIPL nests. Nest 2 is in the hatch window and is at 27 days of incubation at the time of this report. Nest 3 with two eggs continues to be incubated. PIPL Nest 8 was found with one egg on 5/30 and had three eggs on 6/3 Only one egg was in the nest when the exclosure was installed on the morning of 6/4. The closure was installed to prevent predation of the third remaining egg and in hope that a fourth egg would be laid. As of the evening of 6/4, there was no fourth egg and it appears the nest may have been abandoned. The loss of the eggs is attributed to probable avian predation.

Foraging PIPLs continue to be seen along the ocean shoreline within the closure.

Nests/Expected hatch data:
PIPL Nest 1 (Cape Point) was lost due to a storm event.
PIPL Nest 2 (Ocracoke) is within the hatch window.
PIPL Nest 3 (Ocracoke) is expected to hatch on or around June 13.
PIPL Nest 4 (Cape Point) hatched three chicks on June 3.
PIPL Nest 5 (Cape Point) is expected to hatch on or around June 13.
PIPL Nest 6 (Bodie Island) is expected to hatch on or around June 24.
PIPL Nest 7 (Ocracoke) was lost due to a storm event.
PIPL Nest 8 (Ocracoke) is expected to hatch on or around July 1 but may be abandoned.
PIPL Nest 9 (Cape Point) is expected to hatch on or around July 5.

Seven breeding pair of PIPLs have been confirmed on the Seashore thus far for 2008.

Am. Oystercatcher Update:
AMOY Update: (active = # of nests w/eggs (not hatched); hatched= # of nests w/ chicks)

27 total nests to date; 10 active nests; 6 nests hatched; 11 nests lost;
15 total chicks hatched; 12 unfledged chicks; 3* chicks lost; 0 fledged chicks
*One killed by sibling, two unknown.

Bodie Island:
1 active nest/0 hatched nests/3 nests lost
Green Island: 1 active nest/0 hatched nests/2 nests lost

Hatteras Island:
Bodie/Hatteras District (south of Pea Island NWR- Ramp 30), 2 active nests/2 hatched nests/2 nests lost
Hatteras District (Ramp 30 – Hatteras Inlet), 6 active nests/3 hatched nests/2 nests lost

Ocracoke Island:
0 active nests/1 hatched nest/2 nests lost

We have a total of 21 breeding pairs (including pairs that have lost nests) and there are at least 12 other possible pairs in territories which have yet to nest.

Colonial waterbirds:
Bodie Island:
A LETE colony 1 mile south of Ramp 4 had 23 LETE nests on 5/21. All the nests were lost during an overwash event on 6/2.
Green Island: A common tern (COTE) colony was documented on the north end of Green Island. On 5/27 there were five one-egg COTE nests. Black skimmers were present on the west end but no nests were documented. The island has not been visited during this report period.

Hatteras Island:
Bodie/Hatteras District (Pea Island - Ramp 30):
The LETE colony 2.1 miles south of Ramp 23 had 25 scrapes, 7 one-egg nests, 28 two-egg nests, and 4 three-egg nests on 6/3.
The LETE colony 1.1 miles north of Ramp 27 had 40 scrapes, 1 one-egg and 3 three-egg nests on 6/3.
The LETE colony 0.1 miles north of Ramp 27 was determined to be abandoned on 6/4 and the closure was removed.
The LETE colony 0.1 miles south of Ramp 27 had two nests and 12 scrapes on 5/30.
The LETE colony 0.3 miles south of Ramp 27 had 5 two-egg nests and 6 one-egg nests on 5/30.
The LETE colony 0.7 miles north of Ramp 30 is scheduled to be censused on 6/5.

Hatteras District (Ramp 30 – Hatteras Inlet):
The LETE colony just north of Ramp 34 had 3 three-egg nests, 28 two-egg nests, and 4 one-egg nests on 5/31.
The mixed colony in the center of the Cape Point pre-nesting closure had 21 LETE nests and 3 COTE nests on 6/1.
The LETE colony at Ramp 45 appears to consist of four pair of LETEs with only a single nest discovered to date.
The LETE colony 1.7 mi east of Ramp 49 had 3 three-egg nests, 58 two-egg nests, and 2 one-egg nests on 6/4.

Ocracoke Island:
The LETE colony at South Point is comprised of three sub-colonies. One colony had 36 nests on 6/4, another had 1 nest on 5/31 and the third had one nest on 6/1.

Other species of interest:
There is a confirmed Wilson’s Plover pair scraping on South Ocracoke. On 5/29 and 5/30 WIPL were seen in the dunes near PIPL Nest 2. On each occasion the bird was alert and vocal and flew out of the area when disturbed. One fresh scrape with tracks was found in the dunes and many tracks were in the area. This is the same area where WIPL and PIPL were seen in a territorial dispute on 4/30. The scrapes that were found on the soundside on 5/25 were probably WIPL, considering scrape and track size. Photographs of birds, scrapes and tracks were taken. Up to five WIPL were observed foraging in the big flats of South Point earlier this spring.

Two pair of Black-necked Stilts have been observed at Cape Point. On 5/31, one stilt was observed roosting in what appeared to be a nest scrape.

Sea turtle nests:

Weekly Nest Total: 3 loggerhead nests
Total Nests to date at CAHA: 5
Total False Crawls to date at CAHA: 5

Marine Mammals:
5/30 Dead bottlenose/common dolphin hybrid found north of Ramp 34. Frozen by NPS staff and transferred to NOAA on 6/4.
6/4 A fresh dead bottlenose dolphin found at north of Ramp 55 in Hatteras Village. Transferred to NOAA on 6/4.

Sea turtle Strandings (this week only):
6/1 Small green turtle found dead at Ocracoke Inlet on the soundside at South Point.
6/4 Female loggerhead found dead south of Avon Pier.

Closures - additions/modifications/removals:

Closure # Location Species Date Installed/Removed
Bodie Island
BH08-001-C S of Ramp 27 AMOY/LETE 5/29/2008
BH08-003-A 0.1 mi S of Ramp 27 AMOY 5/27/2008
BH08-005-C 1.5 mi S of Ramp 23 LETE 6/4/2008
BH08-006-R N of Ramp 27 LETE 6/4/2008
BH08-007-A 0.6 mi S of Ramp 27 AMOY 5/29/2008
BH08-007-R 0.6 mi S of Ramp 27 AMOY 6/4/2008
Hatteras Island
HI08-001-F Cape Point PIPL 6/4/2008
HI08-006-C Sandy Bay AMOY 5/30/2008
HI08-007-R S of Ramp 43 AMOY 6/2/2008
Ocracoke Island
OI08-004-B 0.8 mi S of Ramp 59 AMOY 5/29/2008
OI08-006-R 3.2 mi NW of Ramp 67 AMOY 5/29/2008

But you forget parks are for people to enjoy. The closures restrict anyone from using that portion of the park that historically has been open to park visitors to enjoy.

Please note that most of the "Civil Disobedience" is being committed by pedestrians, and not ORV's, at a ratio of~ 26:2. Unpopular regualtions are many times met with way more disobedience that has occured on Hatteras Island. I personally think that this speaks of the ongoing commitment of the majority of Hatteras and Ocracoke beachgoers to obey the NPS/Consent Decree rules, even though they disagree with them. You should point out these positive facts when you write about this area, and not just the perceived negative ones. Make a visit to the area and see for yourself!

Here's a link to an article in a Hatteras Island local newspaper. The article describes an Oystercatcher nest within feet of a 55 MPH highway, and the vehicles don't seem to bother the birds a bit. However, pedestrians DO seem to bother the birds, as they fly away at every approach.

Photographic proof included!

It just goes to show that these bird species ARE adaptable, and that ORV's are not the scourge of the beach, as many would have everyone believe.

No one has forgotten that our Parks are for the people of this country, the regulations put in place are because historically there are jerks who have no respect for our park property or the wildlife that lives there, to save them it is necessary to restrict some usage so other generations to come may enjoy them also.

You need to get a life,the birds have survived with the way things have been for years.Think how the local economy is affected by such a change.If the bird was really such a endanger species,all beaches in the United States would be closed.

And when was the last time you went and did something positve to help the area instead of complain how bad it is? Beach cleanup, informational courses etc....

It would appear from the detailed statistics which are only gathered by site visitation, that a self proclaimed elit group can wander the shores within their private bird santuary at the expense of all others. Arrogance by elite components of any society has always spawned reprocussions. While the birders proclaim the "rednecks with their trucks" are off the beach, the footprint of the homes and cottages on Hatteras are also a problem. But will that access be sacrificed for the well being of tha hatch?

You obviously know nothing about the Cape Hatteras beaches and the residents or visitors!! The Audubon society, Southern Environmental Law center, etc. have completely distorted the truth about the effect of ORV use on the beach. Take your lonely self to the wilderness to live with your beloved birds, as for me and my friends, who are and have always been outstanding stewards of the Cape Hatteras beaches we will fight to the end to preserve HUMAN rights to enjoy our national park. It is beyond belief the extent to which people who have never even visited the area have gone to prevent fisherman and their families from enjoying the wonderful Hatteras beaches.

If the beach closures help the wildlife then it is a small price to pay to have some areas closed periodically for wildlife breeding. After speaking with several fishermen on the beach, and some in the tackle shops, I was initially left with the impression that the NPS and "environmentalists" were trying to eventually close all NP beaches on Hatteras to ORV's and pedestrians all the time. I was also told that the feds want to get rid of the villages, and close the beaches to humans, period. That is not the case. It seems to me that some of the open beach access advocates do themselves an injustice when they grossly exaggerate their claims about closures and give their dire predictions. A national park is for all citizens wherever they live in the US, and not just a few people who like to drive right on the beach. Rout 12 seems like a beach road to me anyway. Do the fishermen absolutely have to have their trucks with them to fish. How about just using Rt 12 and walking over the dune with your gear instead of having to have a tailgate for a table for their gear.

This is a NATIONAL PARK. It is our duty to protect wildlife. If the beaches have to be closed for short period of time, so be it. Having just visited the Avon-Hatteras-Ocracoke area for the first time I was appauled to see vehicles on the beaches. It's not only an eye sore, it's noisy and smelly. I thought the beach was for relaxing, not possible when people in big 4 wheel drives are speeding around - and yes I mean speeding around with seemingly no regard for others around them. Good grief - WE HAD CHILDREN WITH US and didn't feel like we could relax. It's impossible to take a walk down the beach through the fishing lines. Ridiculous. Let people fish off boats if they want to fish.

Talking with a lot of business owners they seemed to think the issue was being expolited by the fishermen. They didn't fear a downturn in business or the doom and gloom forecast by the fishermen.

Lee I guess when you attend Yellowstone and park amongst the thousands of cars and walk on the thousands of feet of manmade boardwalk you feel this is how it is doen protecting wildlife and our children?

Just another person blowing things out of proportion save one... Yes because of the draconian closures there is now and will be in the future more crowded beaches in Cape Hatteras whether there are ORV's or not...

PS the NPS is now looking into delaying the process for coming up with the final ORV plan possibly to even April 2012...

I think you missed a turn and mean to go to Pea Island. There are plenty of beaches open to pedestrians if you are willing to look...sound familiar?

Here's a perfect example of the kinds of opposing tensions that make management of park areas so very difficult.

I, for one, applaud the courage and dedication of men and women who have what it takes to stand fast in the face of intense opposition and abuse from all sides in order to make responsible decisions to ensure that our special places will be "preserved unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

To Recent Visitor Lee,
I am sorry you did not enjoy your day on the beach at the Outer Banks. Believe me when I say this because I am sincere. It can be a wonderful experience.
I would ask that you keep an open mind.
There is always a certain element that abuse any priviledge (or right as some might say) and speed on the beach. Some even drive recklessly. Just as anywhere else, law enforcement should prevent this. Many of us of the ORV community do not understand why this is not better controlled. We are all for it.
As to swimmers, sun bathers and beach walkers seeing the fishermen / women as an inconvenience, Those folks that wish to fish, as well as others that just enjoy being at the predominately good fishing spots, would prefer being places that you would not be. But, Unfortunately, These folks can not go there now due to "closures". So everyone is being cramed into the same limited areas. Blame the birds, turtles, NPS, Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife, SELC, Judge Boyle, but not the People.
The place of which we speak is The Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.
It has been a Surf fishing mecca for about a century and fished way before that. People have driven on the beach for the better part of that time to reach the better fishing places. It's a major part of the history and culture.
Granted, there needs to be a management plan. But don't blame the People.
There are miles of beach available for you to have a secluded, quiet day on the beach, vehicle free. You should have asked someone where to go. As to feeling crowded, I'm sorry. No one wants to crowd or anoy you with a vehicle or fishing lines, they are simply being pushed there. So please don't blame the People.

Ron (obxguys)