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Contact: Outer Banks Group, (252) 473-2111
Outer Banks Group Superintendent Mike Murray announced that effective Saturday, July 15, the National Park Service has initiated 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. night time closures of the Cape Point area to protect piping plover chicks that moved toward the eastern side of their resource closure on Saturday, July 15. Piping plovers are protected under the Endangered Species Act and are federally listed as a Threatened species. Three chicks hatched at a nest site on the south side of Cape Point on July 13.
At 5:30 p.m. on Saturday there were 98 vehicles on the beach at Cape Point when NPS personnel including Superintendent Mike Murray began notifying visitors that the area would be closed for the night at 8 p.m. Although people were disappointed, there was good cooperation in departing by 8:00 p.m. and full compliance with the closure throughout the night. Access to the Cape Point area re-opened earlier than expected by 7:15 a.m. on Sunday, July 16. Park biologists were able to relocate 2 of the 3 chicks and the 2 adults foraging in an ephemeral pool just south of the nest site. Heavy rain swept through the Cape Point area at about 8:00 p.m. on Saturday evening. The third chick is presumed lost due to predation or exposure.
“We regret the short notice and inconvenience this action caused for fishermen and ORV users of the Cape Point area,” said Superintendent Mike Murray. “We are disappointed in the apparent loss of a chick, but greatly appreciate the high level of cooperation from the public. At this point we believe this action is a necessary precaution to protect the highly mobile chicks at night when we are not able to effectively monitor the chicks’ movements. NPS staff will monitor the chicks during daylight hours and we will re-evaluate the situation each day to determine if the night time closure continues to be necessary.”
Day time access to Cape Point is open. The night time closures from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. are expected to continue until further notice. Nearby areas remain open for 24-hour access. These include from Ramp 43 to 0.5 mile south of Ramp 44 (where the night time closure begins). In the South Beach area, from Salt Pond Road to 0.8 of a mile south of Ramp 45, approximately 1.1 miles of shoreline is open to ORV and pedestrian use, and includes the Interdunal Road, Salt Pond Road and Ramp 45. From Ramp 49, ORV and pedestrian access is open for approximately 1.9 miles to the north and for 2 miles south of Ramp 49. Pedestrian access is open to Ramp 55. Currently there is no through ORV access between Ramp 45 and Ramp 49, or between Ramp 49 and Ramp 55.
Piping plover chicks are typically mobile within 24 hours after hatching. Once mobile, the chicks will leave the nest and move extensively along the beach, intertidal zone, and mudflats to feed. Plover chicks have been documented to move hundreds of yards from the nest site during their first week of life. Piping plover chicks fledge (are able to fly) 25 to 35 days after hatching. Park biologists will monitor all areas involved and provide for access when it is feasible. Closure areas can typically be reopened after the chicks fledge.
Beach areas used by chicks, for foraging and resting, etc. are closed to off-road vehicles (ORVs) since the typical behavior of piping plover chicks increases their vulnerability to ORVs. Chicks frequently move between the upper beach to moist sandy feeding areas such as mudflats and the intertidal zone. These movements can place them in the path of vehicles on the beach. Chicks sometimes stand motionless or crouch as vehicles pass by making them difficult to see or they simply do not move quickly enough to get out of the vehicle’s way. Tire ruts also cause problems as chicks often stand in, walk, and run along tire ruts and have difficulty crossing or climbing out of deep ruts.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) prohibits harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, or collecting federally protected species. Penalties for violations of the ESA for threatened species include a fine of up to $25,000, imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.