Piping Plover Production Up At Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Piping plover production is looking up at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service file photo.

One of the best years in recent memory for piping plover production seems to be under way at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, according to park managers.

Through mid-June, 15 plover chicks had fledged, said Resource Management Chief Thayer Broili.

"We’re having the best year we’ve ever had for fledging piper plover chicks, probably the best in 20 years since we’ve been monitoring down there," he said.

The chief attributed the relatively good success rate in large part to more monitoring and protection of plover nests, but added that a lack of storms likely helped as well.

“We’ve got more staff to do the monitoring and put in the buffers and respond to breeding situations, and then some people would possibly attribute it to the fact that we’ve been a little bit more restrictive to the areas," Chief Thayer said. "But there could be other factors involved. Weather, we haven't had any big storms. Weather plays a big factor in this.”

Some off-road-vehicle groups and surf casters have complained about the restrictions the seashore managers have taken to safeguard the plovers, a threatened species with fewer than 2,000 pairs on the Atlantic Seaboard, maintaining that the seashore overall offers poor plover habitat and that buffer zones places around nests are overly large and can prevent beach access not only to ORVs but also to pedestrians.

In their resource report on the chicks, park managers noted that a number of nests were lost to overwashes, and some chicks to predation.


Better management yields results. Yes, the lack of storms have helped. But the trend line for the last few years is significantly higher than it was when NPS let ORVs run roughshod all over the seashore.

Maybe the plovers have been so successful breeding this year because the National Park Service has been doing way more than restricting beaches to ORVs and pedestrians. Locals on Hatteras Island have pictures of PARK RANGERS shooting foxes and other wildlife (on a protected national seashore) to ensure the safety of these birds. Although, yes, it is very important to help animals in need, i.e. the plovers, but SHOOTING and killing all other wildlife in its "poor plover habitat" isn't the lesser of two evils. The Audubon and the NPS should be punished for its unlawful treatment of all other wildlife, excluding the Plover.

Everyone supporting the Defenders of Wildlife and Audobon Society need to realize just what they are supporting, they say they are for protecting wildlife but in fact, they are causing needless killings of thousands of native animals on Hatteras Island. I have seen the video of the fox being shot because it walked to close to a nest, is this protecting wildlife or special interest groups playing God? I am all for protecting wildlife but have been an ORV participant for 20 of my 23 years at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The ORV users are the ones that clean up these beaches and protect it. There have been more Park Service vehicles kill these birds than ORV users because they do not follow the rules. Never have I seen a ORV user be reckless or go near any enclosure. And what is even worse is the government sending swat teams to watch us while minding our own business. The ORV users do not go out there to drive around all day, they follow a speed limit and find and spot where they set up for the day. The economy on the island has greatly suffered, locals are forced to leave because they are being laid off after their families have been there for hundreds of years. We pay taxes on this land but special interest groups want it for their own playground. What if this were your community? This issue isn't about birds, it is about greed. Just a few miles away the Audobon Society owns Pelican Island in the sound but they are allowing it to just erode away leaving no habitat for the pelicans that live there, does this sound like conservation? Get educated and get the real facts.

I find it comical that the Audubon Society wants to protect birds when they're named after a man who was well known for his killing of birds so that he could draw them. Not exactly a conservationist...

Destroying natural predators just so 15 birds can fledge is ridiculous. This isn't conservation. It's a land grab. Plain and simple. Perhaps the entire community of Hatteras, Salvo, Waves, Buxton, etc. should get together and go for a drive/walk/etc.

Whoever wrote this comment is obviously biased and has never been to Hatteras Island. The notion that ORVs run roughshod over the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area is blatant lie that the environmental extremists want you to believe. If you have the tiniest doubt about what I say, seek the truth and come here and see for yourself.

Whoever wrote this comment is obviously biased and has never been to Hatteras Island. The notion that ORVs run roughshod over the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area is blatant lie that the environmental extremists want you to believe. If you have the tiniest doubt about what I say, seek the truth and come here and see for yourself.

And anyone who can't say the current name of the unit correctly in a silly attempt to skew the issue shouldn't be relied upon to be the paragon of objectivity, either. How long are going to keep that up?

The PROPER name for the "UNIT" is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area. The recreational area component of the name is important, sorry. The NPS only chooses to use the allowed short name.

There is no data showing the extensive closures have attributed to any claimed successes. As been known for years, weather and predation are the only major factors. The weather was good this year, thus successes are up.

The NPS has failed to do basic habitat management, which would help bring birds away from highly used recreational areas. They are and want to blame failures on ORVs and pedestrians. The extensive closures are blatantly closing large areas and there is no effort by the NPS to provide access via corridors or sensible and flexible closure sizes. These excessive closures are negatively affecting tourism based economy of the island. This is the cause for complaints.

Wonder why the piping plovers and turtles had such a great 2010 in Hatteras? The Atlantic Ocean around the Outer Banks region was about as quiet as it could be this year. Ask any kite boarder or longtime OBX surfer. No wave action equals zero over wash.....period! Don't believe them. Check out the REAL SCIENCE at the Duck Research Pier in Duck, N.C. Once your on the site, click on wave height. You can go back to all the way to 1985. Look up some of the plover's bad years like 2002. See the large wave heights in April and May? That's called wash over folks. Most of their bad years have had one big swell around May or June. That's just the plain and simple truth and that's all it takes....one! Look at this years chart. It was one of the flattest years since records have been kept. Combine that information with the daily killing of every animal in the Park but seagulls. You begin to see the real picture no matter how Derb spins it. Good for the plovers, but don't say it was all because I was not within a 1000 meters of them. That's just plain stupid. THE PEOPLE OF THIS NATION WANT ACCESS TO THEIR NATIONAL PARKS...THERE IS ROOM FOR ALL.

I would like to know more about the NPS killing all other animals to protect the plovers, is this documented anywhere? Does the park have a written policy to destroy predators, or is this one incident that we do not know all the details about?

Thank you.

Google ''White Paper Report-The Truth about Predator Control''. However, it does not talk about the endless killing of ghost crabs or the number of incidental diamond-back terrapins killed. There's a lot of things going on in your National Park that they won't tell you. Everyone needs to wake up. It's not the seasonal enclosures that are shutting your Park down. It's the outrageous non-science buffers that the environmental ambulance chasers designed. I guess the good news is that most intelligent people are starting to see right through their lies. I feel sorry for all the Audubon members that are getting robbed blind and hear only their one-sided propaganda or worse yet, believe it. Hopefully the Department of Interior will step in and do what's right. Funny how they all think their jobs are so secure.

That you for the link...I don't really know what to think, but this white paper was put together by a pro access group, so I am inclined to believe that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Google ''Piping Mad'' and watch it on the vimeo site. There's more truth in that than anything the environmental lawyers throw out. Also remember it's not just an ORV issue...it's about pedestrian access to historic places within your National Park. I certainly would not want anybody in an seasonal enclosure.

Although I can certainly empathize with the people in that videos plight, that is one side of the story. I have a hard time believing that people at Audubon and the NPS want to "crush people's souls." As moving as this story is, it is extremely biased, and that is not to say that is a bad thing, but I am sure that an equally moving piece could be put together for the "other side." And it has never been proposed that the beaches be closed to people (by the NPS), never. And yes, it is a recreational area, but it is also a National Park that has other concerns than just providing recreation to humans. If people on the island want to get mad at someone, get mad at President Nixon for passing the legislation that every park with ORV use have a management plan for ORV's. CAHA put it off for 30 years before they got sued for not following the law. I think some of the disgust is warranted, but I often think it is a bit misguided. People that fight for the birds or work for the NPS are humans too don't forget. They are hard working people and have just as much right to fight for what they believe (and are often required to to by law in some cases) as the people who live there and are fighting for what they believe in.

Most everyone agrees that Cape Hatteras is the most southern breeding range of the piping plover. Dozens of birding books say the same thing. Is it really possible to have increased numbers in that area as global warming drives most other species farther north?

Hey Anonymous....Good point! Did you also know that just over 10,000 years ago the three biggest cats to ever walk the earth, including the saber-tooth tiger, all lived in N.C.? They hunted mammoths, camels, giant sloths, and mastodons. For some reason I don't think everything is suppose to be here forever.

I do not think most of you understand. If these environmental lawyers came up with realistic buffers, everything would have been fine. That means no more lawsuits or money in there pockets. Also, if you think for one moment that your National Park at Cape Hatteras is not killing animals on a daily basis, your either in the weeds or smoking them.

Tell it like it is guys.
I think more people are beginning to understand and I personnally thank them for that.
I was beginning to think I was cracking up. That I was seeing things that other reasonably sensable people did't see. Thinking maybe it was just me. Thinking Audubon Had kicked our butts.

I think what's really sad is how many Audubon members are not told the truth. Their newsletters and articles have been full of outright lies! It is not fair to the loyal members. Audubon has made good people down right mad and lost many fans in the process. I know several friends that have quit. I hope your happy Walker.....you need to resign now!

How did they get away with selling that large area of donated land up on the northern Outer Banks? I bet they did not put that in the newsletter. Are the people across this land really that stupid? Karma is coming any day.

Kurt, you're obviously an intelligent guy. It must be difficult to be in your position and have to spread this propaganda. These posts are dead on...no pun intended. Even the NPS has documented over 1400 animal "kills" to protect what, 8 pairs of birds, who are nesting out of their range anyway. And the human cost because of it is outrageous. National media is picking this story up, Fox just did one piece and there are more coming. Balance will come eventually.

You are right about the animals, sadly it happens everyday at the Cape Hatteras National Recreational Seashore. However, within the next few months the killings will really pick. So will the non-science buffers and zero access to historic places like Cape Point. Don't ever think it's just a ORV issue....it means for CLOSED EVERYONE PERIOD! I remember driving all the way from Maryland to sit on the ''other side of the fence'' to watch the few plovers that did nest there once in a while. They were not bothered by us and the park bio-tecs agreed. Not anymore! Thanks Audubon, your once good name is going down the drain and Mr. Johnston is correct....balance will come! Don't you understand how many people you have pissed off?

Jeff, when you start citing Fox news I can only scratch my head. This issue isn't so cut-and-dried that it can be summarized entirely fairly or accurately in sound bites, and Fox doesn't exactly have a reputation for being unbiased.

Did Fox also mention the vandalism that's occurring on the seashore in connection with the closures, and the loggerhead turtle that was run over and killed on Ocracoke last June? Did it mention the abuse heaped on NPS personnel? Did it mention that visitation to Cape Hatteras National Seashore reached 2.28 million in 2009, an increase of nearly 150,000 from 2008 (2010 data has not yet been finalized)?

Let me make it clear that the Traveler has not taken an editorial position on the ORV management plan at Cape Hatteras, but has tried to cover the issue objectively. I think that is evident in the story you label "propaganda," the one that mentions plover numbers could be up for a variety of reasons, including fewer storms as well as the interim ORV plan. We said much the same in reporting last year's turtle nesting success.

We've also given voice to those highly critical of the seashore and the ORV plan.

We try to be as accurate as possible. In regard to your comment above, I assume you know that that predator control program is intended to protect not only piping plovers but also American Oystercatchers, sea turtles, and three species of colonial waterbirds.

As for the plovers' range, not only does the National Park Service recognize Cape Hatteras as piping plover range, breeding and wintering, but so does the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state of North Carolina, so I'm not sure how you can say they're nesting out of their range.

Also, like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of North Carolina lists the piping plover as a threatened species.

As a federally threatened species, no matter its population number, the Park Service is obligated by a range of federal laws and regulations to take measures to protect piping plovers. They can't pick and choose which ESA species to address.

And while you mention "8 pairs" of birds, don't forget the 15 chicks that fledged last year, which would push the number over 30. Not a large population, for sure, but twice the number you indicate.

Should Fish and Wildlife set a threshold population number for listed species when it decides whether to try to protect them and bolster their numbers?

Again, this is not a simple issue that can be solved easily or without give-and-take.

As human populations grow, and the idyllic places that the Park Service strives to protect and preserve become more desirable in the eyes of an ever-growing number of user groups, I fear more and more conflicts in all sorts of colors and sizes will arise and not just paralyze the system but degrade it.

Kurt, Your numbers would have been the same if the Point was open last year. No piping plovers or chicks ever came near Cape Point according to National Park data. Again, it's the outrageous buffers that has everyone divided. Most of my birding books call Cape Hatteras the southern most nesting area for piping plovers. I serious doubt ideal conditions will prevail two years in a row. I'm sure the trapping and killing of natural predators will. America does not want their National Park run by special interest groups that do nothing but take.

Kurt I will simply add this. Yes 15 chicks fledged, but 16 were killed (none by ORV) This is less than 50% survival rate with ORV's and pedestrians subdued by draconian closure buffers.

If it were true that this venue is unbiased then please show that these closures for all species are Human closures and not just ORV or Pedestrian. If this were truly an ORV issue then why are Pedestrians being restricted as well? Please note that the 1,000 meter buffers are for Pedestrian and ORV even though all organizations I have read about only require or recommend 300 meters for pedestrians. If you set foot inside a closure you will either be warned, ticketed, fined or even jailed.

The Alternative F sets a recovery plan that lists qty's though I do not recall the exact amounts though I believe it is 15 fledged then 30 fledged sustained for 5 years each. This is a direct reversal from what scientist say the island is capable of carrying which is 15 or so. Oh and by the way 15 fledged could have happened with as few as 5 pairs as they lay eggs 4 at a time on occasions.

"Again, this is not a simple issue that can be solved easily or without give-and-take."

There is no give! The rules in place and the ones about to take place leave areas open as "Year round" but close each year in April whether a bird nest or not! It is a win win for the enviros as stating the beaches are open "year round" controls the uneducated ORV crowd until they show up and find it is closed. OOPS

ORVs are driven by people like me, and we do not run roughshod over the beach and kill plovers. Not any species. Yes, plover chicks will hide in tire tracks, which is enough reason for protecting their nests with seasonal closures ... within reason. But rules designed to punish surfcasters, not simply to protect the plovers, are not reasonable. And do nothing to enlist we reasonable folks ... mostly older guys and gals .. who can be reasoned with. That we are portrayed as crazy ORV drivers, drooling at the mouth to crush chicks, is disingenous at best.

Responsible driver,

I have not read any comments or articles in the Traveler that suggest ORV users run roughshod over the beach and believe that the great majority are like you, respectful of the wildlife. However it would be easy to come to the conclusion that many ORV users would do just what you said they do not do when one reads the bumper stickers on ORVs sporting fishing rods here in CHNS. There are bumper stickers that suggest that plovers are best served fried. The "F** You Audubon" bumper sticker sends a different message.

Commentators that post their North Carolina Beach Buggy Association membership number regularly post comments on local chat boards with varying threats to nesting shorebirds in and outside of the Park.

I agree with you that fishermen and fisherwomen are unfairly punished by the actions of a few.

The majority of the chicks which were lost, were in one location - Ocracoke.
Hatteras had 7 pair, fledged 15 chicks and lost seven chicks.
Ocarcoke had 6 pair and lost 11 chicks (and four nests).

Out of the six historic nesting locations, all of the productivity came from - one.


Had ORVs been present at Cape Point, what makes you think Hatteras' numbers wouldn't have been similar to Ocracoke's because of the disturbance?

ORVs give birth to pedestrians. Pedestrians who ignore signage and like to roam around beachcombing (as well as using the nesting/chick habitat and dunes as a latrine).

There IS NOT a 1,000 meter closure for pedestrians. That is a falsehood. The 1,000 meter plover chick buffer landed between Ramps 43 and 44. Pedestrians were allowed to walk out 44 and from 43 as far south as an American Oystercatcher closure south of 44 near the by-pass. ORVs coming on the beach at 43 were prohibited from traveling further south about mid-way between the two ramps. I know this because I walked it.

Crot not only are you late as usual but also wrong. Please go back and read the signs (not assume but READ) again and not matter how you count or where the fact is that less than 50% is all we got!!!!

There were no bird signs at the end of the 1000 meters. Only brown no ORV signs. And the truth always matters.

The facts are the facts, no matter how you try to ignore them in the name of your own cause. The NPS, along with the Audubon Society and others have decided that saving a specific nesting area of a dozen or so "threatened" species is worth euthanizing hundreds, if not, thousand of other species. The argument that these predators are ferrel tot he island is not a very good argument. Aren't all animals ferrel at some point, through migration and other purposes? And if that is their argument, why do they not carry that same thought process to protection of other species? Kill all the predators.
Hatteras island is not needed to keep the Piping Plover from extinction. There are far larger concentrations of the bird int he US. This move cannot be seen as anything but these special interest groups wanting a human-free Hatteras.
I have ried to review the positions of all involved to make a sound conclusion for myself. But I cannot find where the NPS or the other groups have made an argument about the facts rather than skewed data. Like this article, where the author chose not to delve into the facts as to why the population increased. Take away the humans, kill all predators and hope for a calm storm season and this is what you will get.
In my opinion, the cost is too high for the protection of a species in, what is obviously, an inhospitable area for such a species. Lets look at this in the context that it should be looked at if the NSP and others truly want to keep Hatteras pure. NPS and other groups, get off Hatteras Island! Keep all people off Hatteras Island. Then lets see what MOTHER NATURE does. Well, we all know the answer. The predators will come back, the storms will continue and the Piping Plover will adapt by moving to areas that they find more safe. Its simple survival instinct. Its obvious, without the hands-on assistance of the NPS, protecting it from NATURE, the Piping Plover would likely not survive on Hatteras Island.
I swear I will never have any respect for PETA or any other animal rights group, again. they have done nothing to help the animals in this slaughter. They too are hypocrites!