Cape Hatteras National Seashore authorities are trying to determine who removed fencing that had been set up to protect a sea turtle's nest not far from Rodanthe, North Carolina. Rangers, who say it doesn't appear as if the nest was disturbed, not only re-fenced the site, but they expanded the area protected as required under a court-ordered consent decree pertaining to beach access.
The vandalism was discovered Wednesday morning about 1.2 miles south of the Rodanthe Pier in an area open to pedestrians. "One set of human footprints and one set of tracks from a canine entered and exited the closure from the north," the seashore reported. "All closure signs and fencing at the site had been removed and taken from the area, leaving the nest unmarked."
Under guidelines contained within the consent decree, the new fencing increases the buffer around the nest to 50 meters. Under modifications to that decree reached this past June, the Park Service is not required to expand the buffer if information from the public or developed by NPS leads to the apprehension of a violator. "If a buffer has been expanded because of vandalism, as is the case here, and subsequent information leads to violator apprehension, NPS may retract the expansion," the seashore said.
If anyone has information about this violation, they are asked to call Dare (North Carolina) 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.
Meanwhile, Cape Hatteras Superintendent Mike Murray has reopened the east side of Cape Point to off-road vehicle access. The area is now open to ORV traffic from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. daily. However, the nighttime prohibition on beach driving is still in effect on all National Seashore beaches from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
The west side of Cape Point remains closed to ORVs. While the nesting season for beach-nesting bird species is winding down in the Cape Point area, colonial waterbird nests and chicks are still present in the pre-nesting area west of Cape Point. This area is posted with signs and symbolic fencing and is closed to vehicles, pedestrians and all pets.