The National Park Service has issued its annual
reports on protected species and law enforcement.
The reports, posted on the NPS park planning website detail how
threatened and endangered species –piping plovers, sea turtles, and
seabeach amaranth – fared this year on the Cape Hatteras National
Seashore. Also included are reports on two other protected
species, colonial waterbirds and the American oystercatcher. The law
enforcement report details violations at the seashore last year.
Many, if not most, of the details in the reports were made public last
year in the seashore’s weekly resource management reports and in other
Here’s a quick summary of each.
“The 2011 breeding season was not as successful in terms of
productivity as the 2010 season but was still considered a good year,”
the reports says.
Fifteen breeding pairs of piping plovers were identified through field
observations, matching the previous high of 15 pairs documented in
1989. The seashore appears to have recovered from the sharp decline in
pair numbers that started in 1996 and continues to exhibit an upward
trend in breeding pairs, the report says.
In 2011, nesting occurred at five sites: Bodie Island Spit, Cape Point,
South Beach, North Ocracoke Spit, and South Point. After a two-year
absence from the area, two pairs nested on Bodie Island Spit. Five
pairs were documented at Cape Point and two pairs were documented on
South Beach. This was the second year in a row that a pair nested on
North Ocracoke Spit, and the five pairs identified on South Point at
Ocracoke were the most ever recorded for that area.
The 15 pairs produced 18 known nests and 12 broods, of which only 10
chicks fledged – one on Bodie Island spit, one on South Point
Ocracoke, and seven on Cape Point.
Once again, the weather was ideal during the nesting season, and most
of the chicks were lost to known or presumed predation.
Most violations of resource closures were by pedestrians.
In 2011, 147 sea turtle nests were documented at Cape Hatteras National
Seashore, the report says, just short of the record 153 nests during
The first recorded nesting activity for the 2011 season occurred on
Hatteras Island with a
loggerhead nest on May 15. The last recorded nest of the season was
laid on Hatteras Island on Aug. 21. A total of 278 activities were
documented of which 147 were confirmed nests and 131 were false crawls.
The 147 nests on the seashore included 137 loggerhead nests, nine green
nests, and one Kemp’s ridley nest.
The seashore produced 15.2 percent of the state’s turtle nests last
year, down from 17.4 percent in 2010. Also, last year, there
more turtle nests than usual on all of the North Carolina coast and
many other parts of the southeast coast.
Sea turtle nesting was affected by several storms late last summer,
beginning with Hurricane Irene on Aug. 27. A total of 32 nests were
washed out entirely or could not be found after the storm, and an
additional 12 nests saw a severe decrease in nest success (little or no
Predation was a major factor in sea turtle nesting, and most violations
of resource closures was by pedestrians.
The report also notes:
visitors at CAHA,
especially in front of the villages, left their recreational beach
equipment and chairs or loungers on the beach overnight. This equipment
and furniture can cause turtles to forgo laying eggs by hampering or
trapping animals attempting to locate a nesting site. This is the tenth
season that Resource Management staff has tied notices to personal
property found on the beach after dawn, advising owners of the threats
to nesting sea turtles as well as safety issues and NPS regulations
regarding abandoned property. The date and time items were tagged was
clearly written on each tag. Items left on the beach 24 hours after
tagging were removed by NPS staff. Not all tagged items were removed
within 24 hours as staff patrolling on UTVs could not safely remove the
property from the beach."
times, not all abandoned property could be removed because of
the abundance encountered and staff availability. In 2011, two
incidents of nesting sea turtles being impacted by beach equipment
being left on the beach overnight.”
Seabeach amaranth was listed as federally threatened in 1993. At the
time of its listing, the species had been eliminated from two-thirds of
its historic range that extended from Massachusetts to South Carolina.
It’s an annual plant that is found on overwash flats at accreting ends
of barrier islands and along lower foredunes.
seabeach amaranth as a pioneer species accounts for the variability in
plant numbers and locations of populations through time,” the annual
report says. “Distribution by wind and water of seed sources into
appropriate habitats is somewhat random by nature. The plants
intolerance for competition by other plants limits it to areas
marginally conducive to plant growth. Additionally, overwash is known
to affect the plants’ ability to grow. The dynamic nature of coastal
islands creates and eliminates potential habitat quickly.”
Seabeach amaranth populations have fluctuated greatly at the seashore
since surveys began in 1985. In the last 10 years, numbers were the
highest in 2002 with 93 plants. More recently numbers have declined
with only one plant found in 2004 and two plants found in 2005. No
plants have been found since 2006 and the plant is currently thought to
possibly be extirpated from Cape Hatteras.
Colonial waterbirds are those species of birds that nest in large
groups or colonies and obtain their food from the water. Terns, gulls,
pelicans, skimmers, and cormorants are all examples of CWB.
Last year on the seashore, there were 1,063 least tern nests, 112
common tern nests, 99 black skimmer nests, and 15 gull-billed tern
The report notes that last year’s increase in nests represented the
highest nest total in the past five years.
“A number of factors may have contributed to this,” the report says.
First, it notes, based on the last state-wide survey in 2007, the least
tern population is increasing in the state and it is a safe assumption
that Cape Hatteras is the beneficiary of immigrants from other colonies
in the state. Second, timely installation of closures and increased
buffers may have had an influence on the number of least tern, or other
colonial waterbird pairs. Third, weather events may influence when and
where the birds nest in any given year. This year we again experienced
no major storms during the nesting season.
In 2011, the report says, 23 pairs of American oystercatchers nested at
Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Nests, including re-nests by pairs
with failed attempts, totaled 26. Of these nests, 22 (85 percent)
hatched and produced chicks, for a total of 49 chicks. Seventeen pairs
of the bird were successful in fledging chicks (74 percent), the most
successful number of pairs since record keeping began at CAHA. There
were 28 oystercatcher chicks, which represents a 1.2 fledge rate per
pair, the second highest fledge rate on record.
Last year, a total of 862 warning and citations combined were issued at
Charts and graphs with the report break these down by resource
violations, other violations, traffic violations on paved roads, and
traffic violations in ORV areas.
The top resource violations were for pets (360) and fires
Pedestrian violations in closures topped ORV violations in closures– 99
to 7. There were also 79 night driving violations.
Campground rule violations (230) and miscellaneous alcohol violations
(222) topped the list of other violations.
Speeding (368) was the top traffic violation on paved roads and open
containers of alcohol (273) led the violations in ORV areas.
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore 2011 annual reports for protected
species and law enforcement are available to the public on the PEPC
website under the Interim Protected Species Management Strategy project