Beach Access Issues
August 20,  2008

Five Hatteras turtle nests have been vandalized


The National Park Service says that five turtle nest closures on Hatteras Island were vandalized last week.

Michelle Bogardus, head sea turtle biologist for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, said that two of the nests are south of the Rodanthe Pier in an area that is seasonally closed to ORVs, one is just south of Ramp 44 near Cape Point, one is east of Ramp 49 in Frisco, and one west of that ramp.

She said that all appeared to be intentional violations.

Bogardus said that the violation that had her most worried about the health of the nest is the closure at Ramp 44.  That is an “expanded” enclosure of a nest that had reached its 50-day hatch window.  At the closure, she said, a barefoot person walked into the area that is surrounded by dark filter fence and jumped up and down the nest.

That incident happened late last week.  The nest should have hatched by now, but hasn’t.  However, she said she did not want to disturb it by digging to see if the eggs were still viable.  Also, she added that the area has been overwashed twice, which could have slowed the hatching.

The two incidents near Rodanthe Pier, she said, could have harmed the eggs.  In one of those cases, a barefoot person walked around in the closure, and in the other a person and a dog entered a nest.  The dog she said dug a hole, fairly deep, at the nest.  But she said the staff had checked and the nest seemed to be all right.

At the nests near Ramp 49, she said, persons on foot pulled down string, in once case, and broke a post in another, but did not walk into the nest.

There has not been another incident since late last week.

The consent decree calls for expansions of buffers around nests if there are violations, said Cyndy Holda, assistant to seashore Superintendent Mike Murray and community liaison. Park officials feel, Holda said, that the expansions are directed at birds.  However, she noted, that the decree states that the Park Service “retains discretion at all times to enforce more protective closures or take other measures, if considered necessary, consistent with its obligations under the law and this Consent Decree.”

Holda said park officials are discussing the situation with the turtle nest vandalism, weighing the facts and assessing the situation.  Perhaps, she said, it was a one-time rash of violations that has now ended.

All the stakeholders on the negotiated rulemaking committee have been notified, she said, but no final decision on whether to expand buffers or take any other action will be made until Murray returns from a vacation next week.

“The stakeholders,” she said, “are appalled, as we are.”

“The Park Service,” she added, “takes its turtle closures as seriously as its bird closures….Maybe it was just a malicious act by one person and it’s over.”

“I really did not expect these violations,” Bogardus said.

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore has had a record year for turtle nesting.  As of Aug. 20, there were 109 turtle nests in the park.

(Other articles on sea turtle nesting on the seashore are posted on the Beach Access Page.)

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