Access and Park Issues
Night driving prohibited on beaches from May 1- Sept. 16
May 1, all Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches are closed to
off-road vehicles (ORVs) between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., in
accordance with the court ordered consent decree.
Enforcement of the restriction will begin at midnight on Friday, April
30. The 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. prohibition on beach driving will
remain in effect until Nov. 15. However, under the terms of
consent decree, the National Park Service may issue permits between
Sept. 16 and Nov. 15 to authorize night driving on seashore beaches.
The Park Service retains the discretion to limit night driving to
certain areas or routes, based on resource protection considerations.
Before Sept. 16, the seashore will announce the availability of the
night driving permits and how to obtain the permit. The
will be available through Nov. 15 at no charge and with no limit on the
number of permits.
There are no restrictions on night driving between Nov. 15 and May 1.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore provides crucial nesting habitat for
loggerhead and green sea turtles, as well as the occasional
leatherback. Loggerhead and green turtles are currently
threatened under the Endangered Species Act and leatherbacks are
Sea turtles typically lay nests at night between May and September,
when adult turtles come ashore to deposit around 100 ping-pong ball
sized eggs into a cavity in the sand.
While nesting, these turtles are susceptible to human disturbance on
the beach. If a nesting turtle is disturbed, it may not nest
all, or may lay a nest in a less than optimal area.
Once laid, eggs will incubate in the sand for 50-70 days before the
hatchlings emerge and make their way to the ocean. The
will use light cues in order to find their way from their nest to the
sea, making them vulnerable to artificial lights from houses, piers,
headlights, beach fires, and lanterns.
According to a Park Service media release, studies vary, but it is
estimated that only one in 1,000 to one in 10,000 hatchlings will
survive to adulthood. Ten to 15 percent of the turtle nests
in North Carolina are laid on Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches.
In 2009, 104 sea turtle nests were documented at the seashore.
The night driving restriction will be posted at all seashore ORV access
ramps. The regulation is enforceable by NPS law enforcement
rangers, and violators are subject to up to six months imprisonment and
up to a $5,000 fine.
To report violations, contact: Dare Central
252-473-3444. For further information, contact the Chief
Office at 252-473-2111.