Record Year for Sea Turtles Follows Off-Road Vehicle Restrictions

Image credit: Audubon NC

Whether or not BP was burning sea turtles alive, the Gulf oil spill did kill a lot of these endangered creatures. But the news hasn't been quite so grim elsewhere. In fact on Cape Hatteras, North Carolina—where there has been an ongoing feud between off-road enthusiasts and conservationists over beach access—it's been a record breaking year for nesting birds and sea turtles. Activists are claiming this is one more sign that the restriction of Off Road Vehicles (ORV) in nesting areas is working. No doubt, some ORV enthusiasts will disagree.As I wrote when I posted a slideshow of the wildlife that the ORV restrictions aim to protect, I should note that there are those who claim the limitations are draconian, unnecessary, and harmful to the local economy. But with the latest conservation figures suggesting a healthy increase in bird and turtle numbers, it seems fair to suggest that Cape Hatteras' status as a destination for nature lovers and eco-tourists can only be bolstered by such nature-friendly regulations. Nevertheless, conservationists are going out of their way to underscore that the goal is not to remove ORVs from the beach entirely:

""We are heartened by these impressive nesting numbers," said Walker Golder, deputy director of Audubon North Carolina. "The unique waterbirds and sea turtles that depend on Cape Hatteras are a vital part of what makes the Seashore a national treasure. These nesting numbers illustrate that vehicles and wildlife can share the beach as long as sound, science-based protection measures are in place."

"The success of this nesting season underscores the need for a long-term ORV management plan at the Seashore," said Jason Rylander, staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. "Our parks should be safe places for wildlife in addition to providing recreational opportunities for visitors."

Preliminary records indicate that 147 sea turtle nests have been reported so far this year, compared to a previous record of 111. Additionally, a record 15 piping plover chicks survived to fledge or learn to fly, the highest number ever documented since record-keeping began in 1992. Prior to the ORV restrictions being implemented in 2008, piping plover numbers reportedly plummeted to an all-time low, with no chicks surviving the season on a number of years.

More on Cape Hatteras National Seashore & ORV Use
Beach Driving at Cape Hatteras: Cars vs Birds
Off-Road Vehicles Versus Birds: Cape Hatteras Under Threat
ATVs: Destroying the Climate & Environment for Fun

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