DNREC begins annual closure of the Point at Cape Henlopen State Park
The Point at Cape Henlopen State Park is closed for beach-nesting season.
DNREC is closing the Point’s nesting habitat on the ocean side to the public through August 31 and the bayside beach will be closed until October 1 for use by shorebirds migrating.
The Point has closed every year at this time since 1993 for most of the spring and summer to benefit threatened and endangered beach-nesters and migratory shorebirds – red knots, piping plovers, oystercatchers, least terns and other species.
Keeping people away is important for the birds to create a mating territory, and to nest the eggs as both the birds and eggs are camouflaged in the nest in the sand.
DNREC Environmental Stewardship Program Manager Chris Bennett says it’s important for people to stay away when the young birds hatch.
"When they hatch out later in May and June they can easily be trampled, they can be easily run over by a vehicle. So it's really important at that stage to limit disturbance, and of course when people go to the beach a lot of times they bring their pets with them. So dogs even on leashes can be a deterrent to a small bird like a piping plover, and certainly if someone's walking on the beach with their dog unleashed they can chase the birds," said Bennett.
Bennett notes the danger of dogs chasing birds is that the young birds might not be able to fly yet.
Bennett says enforcement staff can penalize those ignoring the closures.
"They can ticket people. Usually they just give a warning,” said Bennett. “I would assume if they run into someone who repeatedly disobeys the closure and gets caught repeatedly they'll get ticketed."
Bennett notes that the Division of Fish and Wildlife staff will have seasonal and full-time staff monitoring the birds, and catching people not obeying the closures.
Last year, DNREC reported 24 nesting pairs of piping plovers successfully raised a total of 34 fledglings