Monday, June 28, 2010

A Tragic Death At The Seashore

It’s always hard to write about a subject that causes me great anger. This is particularly true when that emotion is directed in several different ways and at various individuals and organizations. I don’t know who to yell at first.

So I’ll begin with the idiot.

Fair warning, there are some graphic pictures involved in this post.

At some point, Wednesday last or in the early hours Thursday an individual or group of people went for a drive on the beach off of Ramp 72 just outside of Ocracoke Village and proceeded to run over and kill a Loggerhead turtle.

The NPS suggests that this occurred sometime between the hours of 10PM and 6AM which are the hours where beach driving is not permitted except by official vehicles, as per the court sanctioned “consent decree”. The decedent was discovered at approximately 6:10 AM Thursday morning by Michelle Bogardus, NPS senior turtle biologist.

Apparently, in addition, SW of Ramp 70, a new, then unmarked nest was driven over and some eggs were crushed. This discovery occurred at almost 7AM, almost a full hour after the beaches were open for legal ORV access by non official vehicles. Where was the dawn turtle patrol required by the ‘consent decree” and why wasn’t the nest wasn’t marked off as required by same?

Who killed the turtle?

As quoted at

John Anglin, Lead Ranger for NPS said “There are people out there in the community who were not involved but who have heard something,” To me, this sounds as though Mr. Anglin assumes that the residents of Ocracoke are either involved or omniscient. Neither of which is likely and perhaps serves as a window as to just how NPS really feels about those of us that live on these Islands.

Let’s look at the facts Mr. Anglin.

As the photographs will bear, whoever was driving that vehicle was not properly aired down. Had you enough beach driving experience and were attentive to detail, you would know the difference between the tracks left by someone who had lowered their tire pressure sufficiently and someone whose tires were spinning faster than they were advancing along the beach. The latter leaves a track resembling sifted flour as opposed to a defined, displaced footprint. If you don’t believe me, follow just about any NPS “observer” vehicle and then look at their tracks. This is especially true with the smaller NPS vehicles found on our beaches which are usually not aired down properly and are, as a result, stuck quite frequently. A subject I have touched upon in this very blog.

Anybody that lives here, John, knows about airing tires down.

It’s also rather obvious that the vehicle in question had relatively low clearance as clearly distinguishable behind the turtle is the imprint of the gas tank which struck the sand.

It is evident that this low clearance, improperly aired down vehicle was not capable of travelling down the beach at any speed else the track would have been much different and was travelling without headlights or they would have seen the turtle. Anybody having a tough time driving the sand in a low clearance vehicle is not going to try and strike a massive object.

It’s also clear that whoever it was that perpetrated this awful act had no fear of ending up in trouble for doing so as they continued down the beach as far as the eye can see in the photo. Why no fear? Is it because they were in an official vehicle and could blame it on some “cowboy”? I only ask because NPS has a penchant for blaming ORV operators for many things that simply don’t make sense and are in some cases, entirely speculative and as such is fair. Of note, is that during the hours NPS assumes this happened, theirs were the only vehicles legally allowed on the beach.

What it comes down to is that the individual who killed the turtle was breaking the law, probably either because of illegal entry or driving without headlights, or both. It could have been anybody, including an NPS employee.

The reality is that it’s the responsibility of NPS to patrol these beaches and enforce the law. Virtually every act of vandalism recorded within the bounds of the Seashore this year has gone unseen, unreported until well after the fact, and without an arrest by NPS but the public has been repeatedly punished by the acts of a few.

The sad part is that our access community has repeatedly approached NPS with the concept of a citizen’s watch and has been turned down every time. Such a watch would have probably prevented this tragedy as the individuals would have been seen and law enforcement notified. I wrote about this very subject for Island Free Press a couple of years ago.

Of course, such an act doesn’t go unnoticed by DOW, Audubon, and SELC who are now calling for barriers to be erected at sundown on each of the ramps within the Seashore. My only response to that thought process is to remind these characters that during the almost sixty years where unrestricted night driving was conducted at the Seashore, an incident like this never happened.

Remember too that because of NPS policy here at the Seashore, almost 40% of the nests laid on our beaches are lost each year due to storms, predation and management practice.

All that these people and NPS have managed to accomplish since the “07 IMS is to attempt to fix something that wasn’t broken to begin with.

Again, the pics are graphic.

Tight Lines,


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