Call it serendipity, the fate of the gods, or simple biology, but it seems that Cape Hatteras National Seashore is undergoing an invasion of sea turtles. And that means more beach closures to off-road vehicles and pedestrians.
At last report, there were 111 confirmed nests laid by sea turtles, an increase of about 30 percent above normal, according to biologists with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. And about 70 percent of those nests have yet to hatch.
Under a consent decree reached earlier this year between the National Park Service, the National Audubon Society, and Defenders of Wildlife, the National Park Service can block access to areas of beach with unhatched nests until those nests hatch.
As experienced in 2007 under the Interim Strategy, and again this season, some full beach closures will be implemented as turtle nests approach "day 50" (from the date when the nest was laid) in expectation of hatching. Under the terms of the Consent Decree, beginning September 15, all sea turtle nests that have reached their hatch window at day 50 will result in full beach closures until those particular nests hatch. As of August 21, 2008, there are 111 sea turtle nests on national seashore beaches, of which, 31 nests have hatched.
Now, some closures that had been implemented due to nesting piping plovers, terns, and Oystercatchers are being reopened.
And while a nighttime prohibition on beach driving is still in effect throughout the Seashore from May 1 to November 15 between 10:00 pm until 6:00 a.m., seashore officials are developing a permit to allow night driving between September 16 and November 15.