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Contact: Outer Banks Group, (252) 473-2111
Outer Banks Group Superintendent Mike Murray announced that effective Friday, July 21, 2006 the National Park Service (NPS) has discontinued the 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. night time closure of the Cape Point area that had been imposed on July 15 to protect two piping plover chicks. The nightly closure is no longer warranted since it appears that the two chicks have been lost, possibly to predation. The access corridor from Ramp 44 to Cape Point is now open on a 24-hour basis. NPS resources management personnel will continue to monitor the resource closure area west of the access corridor for bird nesting activity.
South Point on Ocracoke Island has been closed to all access 0.8 mile south of Ramp 72 since July 12, 2006 when a brood of three piping plover chicks hatched at a nest on the oceanside shoreline. The chicks have since moved to a foraging area on the soundside shoreline, two chicks have been lost, and one remains in the same general area. Effective July 21, NPS has opened a daytime access pass-through corridor to South Point along the ocean shoreline. Access is permitted from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. NPS staff will relocate the brood each morning before the pass-through corridor is reopened and will monitor the chicks during daylight hours. NPS will re-evaluate the situation each day to determine if the night time closure continues to be necessary.
Visitors using the South Point pass-through corridor are required to have an “access pass,” which is simply an information sheet to notify visitors of basic restrictions related to the closure. Restrictions include the following: ? Access is open when the barricade is open. ? Vehicle speed limit is 10 mph. ? No stopping or parking in pass-through corridor. ? No pedestrians or pets outside of vehicle in pass-through corridor. ? Pets must be leashed at all other locations.
In the unlikely event that the piping plover chick(s) move unexpectedly into the pass-through corridor, the corridor and South Point will be closed immediately until park staff can determine the safest way to re-route traffic. If visitors are within the closure when this happens, or if the pass-through corridor is temporarily barricaded, visitors are asked to stop their vehicle and wait for instructions. The “pass” must be displayed on the driver’s side dashboard of a vehicle at all times when in this area. The pass is available at the Tradewinds and O’Neal’s Dockside tackle shops in Ocracoke Village, from park ranger staff, and from a self-help dispenser on the beach at the entrance to the pass-through corridor.
“We are very disappointed at the loss of piping plover chicks at these two sites and also mindful of public concerns about the duration of these closures,” said Superintendent Mike Murray. “We are doing our best to provide reasonable and prudent protection measures for a federally listed Threatened species, while at the same time trying to be responsive to the desire for public access when and where we can. We greatly appreciate the high level of cooperation and compliance from the public in complying with the closures that have been in effect.”
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.