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Contact: Wouter Ketel, 252-728-2250 ext. 3005
Harkers Island, NC. Superintendent Bob Vogel announces a focused effort at Cape Lookout National Seashore to inform visitors of concerns over the number of dogs that are observed off leash at the seashore, and the impact that dogs can have on the wildlife that rely on the seashore beaches for survival. Beginning this summer, seashore staff will intensify both education and enforcement of this important rule. Visitors not heeding the rule may leave the park with a court summons and a $150.00 fine.
Superintendent Vogel reports that seashore personnel regularly observe pets off leash; “this is likely one of the most common rule violations at the national seashore” he notes. While some do not know about the rule, many that are contacted are obviously aware of it, but fail to understand how their dogs can impact the wildlife of the seashore and other visitors.
While some visitors might think that the 56 miles of remote seashore is a perfect place to let their pets roam, doing so can seriously impact wildlife. This is because the seashore serves as the primary breeding habitat for many coastal and migrant bird species in North Carolina. Coastal birds nest on bare sandy beaches and it is often not apparent that birds are nesting nearby. Loose dogs can interrupt breeding behaviors, chase birds off of their nests and expose the nest to other predators. Once disturbed, birds may abandon nesting at that location altogether.
Most of the bird species are protected, and many are listed as threatened or endangered. For example, about two-thirds of all the Piping Plovers (an endangered species) in North Carolina nested at the seashore in 2005.
“Pristine beaches, great fishing and the persistent calls of wildlife are some of the experiences that have brought people to the seashore for generations,” states Superintendent Vogel; “together with the public, it is our duty to protect these resources and experiences for the present and future visitors.”