Beach Access Issues
July 31, 2008

Park Service reports sixth violation of resource protection area

On the morning of Wednesday, July 30, the National Park Service’s turtle patrol observed all-terrain vehicle (ATV) tracks inside the posted bird closure located approximately 1.8 miles south of Ramp 23. 

After entering the closure, the unauthorized ATV had driven high on the beach through a least tern nesting area.  The vehicle continued south through the closure and exited where it did two doughnuts before heading back north through the resource protection area again. 

There were no signs of ATV tracks south of the closure, so the Park Service thinks that the ATV entered the closure heading south and then returned north.  Staff followed the ATV tracks north and observed that the tracks left the beach over a dune near Sea Haven Drive in Rodanthe. However, no suspects were identified. 

Park Service bird resource management staff members were called in to survey the nest site and discovered that a least tern egg had been crushed in the tracks of the illegal ATV.  The egg was located high on the beach approximately 100 meters inside and south of the posted closure boundary. 
The April 30 consent decree related to shorebird and sea turtle protection at Cape Hatteras National Seashore requires the National Park Service to automatically expand a resource protection area when deliberate acts occur that disturb or harasses wildlife or vandalizes fencing, nests, or plants.  The buffer has been expanded 100 meters to the north in accordance with the decree.

The incident was the sixth deliberate violation of an area in the seashore closed for resource protection since the consent decree was effective. Previous violations did not result in the destruction of nests, eggs, or birds.

The incident involved multiple federal criminal violations of NPS regulations, including illegal vehicle use, entering a closed area, and the destruction of the egg.  Each violation carries a potential penalty of up to a $5,000 fine and six months imprisonment.  In addition, the destruction of a migratory bird nest or egg is a criminal offense under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which carries a potential penalty of up to $15,000 fine and six months imprisonment, plus seizure and forfeiture of all equipment, vehicles, and other means of transportation used in the violation.

"The egregious violations such as this one that result in the automatic expansion of the resource protection areas represent a small percentage of the total number of closure violations that have been occurring,” said seashore Superintendent Mike Murray.  “For the most part, our law enforcement staff has been successful in apprehending violators in resource closures, although the staff clearly cannot be everywhere at once or in any particular place all the time.  In the month of July alone, rangers have apprehended over 30 violators in resources closures. 

“Our hope in publicizing these most serious violations,” he said, “is that members of the public who have any information about the violation or other criminal activity on seashore beaches will come forward and assist us in solving the case.”  

Though no suspects have been identified in this case, several leads have been pursued.  If anyone has information about this violation or illegal ATV use in the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo area, or any other illegal activity occurring on the seashore, please call the Dare County Crime Line at 1-800-745-2746.  It is open 24 hours a day.

In addition, the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association is offtering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons involved in a deliberate act of vandalism in a resource protection area. This reward stands from now until Nov. 15 or until all turtle nests have been hatched.

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