• Cape Lookout Lighthouse from Barden Inlet

    Cape Lookout

    National Seashore North Carolina

Wildlife Closure FAQs

Why does the park implement temporary closures?

Temporary closures are put into place to protect a variety of nesting colonial shore birds as well as sea turtle nests. The park is required under the Federal Endangered Species Act and the Federal Migratory Bird Act to protect these species, and putting up closures protects these endangered species while still allowing people to drive on most of the beach.

Why are the bird closures necessary?

Human activity can cause adult birds to abandon their nests. In addition, the nests of shore birds are very difficult to see and avoid and when young chicks are threatened, they hide by staying perfectly still and blending in with the sand. Closing an area to humans and vehicles prevents nest abandonment, the eggs from being crushed in the nest, or young chicks from being run over.

Find more information on the Piping Plover webpage.

Why are the sea turtle closures necessary?

Driving on the beach creates tire ruts. When sea turtles hatch, they head down the beach towards the ocean, and if they get stuck in a tire rut, they will die from predation or dehydration. Closures are put up approximately ten days before the nests are expected to hatch so that the beach can smooth out naturally.

When do temporary closures generally occur?

Closures for bird nesting occur from April to August. Closures for sea turtle nesting occur from July to October.

How are the closure areas selected?

A bird closure area is selected based on where the birds are nesting, how many nesting pairs are in the area, and the age and activity of the chicks. Turtle closure areas are selected based on where the turtles nest. Park staff work to restrict access to as small an area and for as short a period of time as is absolutely critical for the protection of the nests, young chicks, and turtle hatchlings.

How long are the closures in place?

Bird closures are in place from the time that nesting begins until the chicks are able to fly. It takes 25-35 days from the time the eggs are laid for them to hatch. Once the eggs hatch it will take around another 30 days until the chicks are able to fly. Turtle closures stay up for ten to fifteen days, depending on when the eggs hatch.

Why don't all closures effect beach travel?

Nesting areas are often on the upper beach out of the way of vehicle traffic. Once the eggs have hatched, the young chicks wander away from the nesting area looking for food along the sound or ocean beach, or near tide pools. At this time closures may need to be expanded to allow them to safely feed until they are old enough to fly. To keep turtle hatchlings from getting stuck in tire ruts, the beach in front of a turtle nest is closed shortly before the nest is due to hatch.

Vehicle traffic is only effected in those areas where the chicks are feeding along the ocean beach or where turtle nests are within two weeks of hatching.

Can I walk through beach closures?

The signs on the closure will specify; some types of closures allow visitors to walk through. For more information on beach signs, visit the Beach Signs webpage.

What species nest along the beaches of Cape Lookout National Seashore?

  • Wilson's Plover
  • Loggerhead Sea Turtle
  • Green Sea Turtle
  • Leatherback Sea Turtle
  • American Oystercatcher
  • Least Tern
  • Common Tern
  • Gull-billed Tern
  • Black Skimmer
  • Willet

Where can I learn more about the nesting success of these species?

Annual reports for bird counts, nesting success, endangered plant species, and Shackleford horses can be found on the Wildlife Management page.

Did You Know?

Shorebird Nest

Unlike bird nests in trees, shorebird nests are simple depressions in the sand, called “scrapes”. These nests look much like the rest of the beach. Cape Lookout National Seashore More...