April 26, 2007
Outer Banks Group, (252) 473-2111
Superintendent Mike Murray announced today that there will be a focused effort this season to inform visitors of concerns over the number of dogs that are observed off leash at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and the negative impact that unleashed dogs can have on the wildlife that rely on the seashore beaches for survival.
Seashore personnel continue to regularly observe pets off leash near resource protection areas that have been established to prevent disturbance or harm to nesting or foraging protected wildlife species. While some visitors may think that 64 miles of ocean shoreline is the perfect place to let their pets roam, doing so can seriously impact wildlife. The national seashore serves as breeding habitat for many coastal and migrant bird species in North Carolina, and nesting habitat for several species of sea turtles. Coastal birds nest on bare sandy beaches, and nests are often not readily apparent to park visitors. Loose dogs can interrupt breeding behaviors, chase birds off of their nests and expose the nest to predators. Once disturbed, birds may abandon nesting at those locations altogether.
The effort will be to educate the public and dog owners on the federal regulation that requires all pets to be on a leash and to target enforcement of the regulation, particularly in wildlife areas. Park Rangers and Beach Ambassador Volunteers will provide information to pet owners and encourage voluntary compliance. Park Rangers can issue violation notices carrying a $125.00 fine to any pet owners who do not comply with the leash requirement.
“Beautiful beaches, great fishing, and opportunities for wildlife viewing are some of the experiences that have brought people to the seashore for generations, “states Superintendent Murray. “Together with the public, we have a duty to protect these resources and experiences at America’s first national seashore for the benefit of present and future generations.”
Tampering with threatened and endangered species or their habitat requires a mandatory appearance in federal court with possible fines of $25,000 and incarceration of five years. Threatened and endangered species at Cape Hatteras include both the piping plover and sea turtles.