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Tip of Cape Point closing for nesting seabirds

Beginning early Saturday morning, a temporary wildlife protection area will be installed near the tip of Cape Point to protect nesting shorebirds, Cape Hatteras National Seashore announced Friday evening.

When the protection area is installed, Off Road Vehicles (ORV) and pedestrians will be able to travel approximately 0.70 miles south of Ramp 44. It will be the first time that the Cape Point area has had an ORV restriction in the past 660 days.

“Cape Hatteras National Seashore understands the tip of Cape Point is a very important area for visitors,” park officials said in a Facebook post. “While it is not possible to provide an exact date for when ORV access all the way to Cape Point will be restored, be assured that seashore staff will actively monitor the nesting shorebirds daily in order to ensure appropriate protection buffers are maintained and to be able to reopen the area as soon as possible.”

Giving beach-nesting birds a wide berth can have a huge impact on the success of shorebirds and colonial nesting waterbirds, which use North Carolina’s barrier islands to breed, nest and raise their chicks, according to the NC Wildlife Comission.

“Beach-nesting birds are a vital component of our barrier-island ecosystem and a sign of a healthy beach,” said Dr. Sara Schweitzer, the commission’s waterbird biologist. “It’s very important that people who visit the coast remember to watch out for beach-nesting birds and to give them a wide berth,” Schweitzer said, adding that these birds are very sensitive to human disturbance.

Eggs and chicks are well camouflaged to protect them from predators, so they can easily be stepped on and crushed. Humans, as well as their pets, can upset nesting birds by wandering too close to nesting areas, which may cause the adult birds to fly off, leaving the eggs or chicks vulnerable.

Skimmers, terns, oystercatchers and plovers are some of the bird species that nest on the beach. Populations of several of these species, such as the common tern, Wilson’s plover and American oystercatcher, have plummeted in recent years – mainly due to human disturbance and habitat loss.