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: http://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/googleearthmap.htm