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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

North end bird posting maintenance criticized

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Concerns have been voiced to New Hanover County staff and officials after multiple weeks without maintenance of the bird sanctuary postings on the north end of Wrightsville Beach, posing wildlife entanglement risks.

While Audubon North Carolina did not voice the concerns, coastal biologist Lindsay Addison said during an April 22 phone interview that she has noticed a lack of maintenance posing entanglement hazards for birds, sea turtles and other wildlife.

“Our contract ended on Sept. 30, and beginning in early October, string began to be down, signs began to be lost within a few months,” Addison said, referring to the former contract between New Hanover County and Audubon to maintain the posting. “We’ve been out there throughout that period of time, about on a weekly or biweekly basis. I’ve never been out there and not seen maintenance issues since that time.”

County engineering director Jim Iannucci said during an April 22 phone interview that he has been maintaining the posting with county shore protection coordinator Layton Bedsole. He said following a knee surgery, the two took a five-week break from maintenance.

“We had that one nor’easter come in and that line is pretty close to the surf edge and so we lost some of the stakes and it pulled some of the string down, because they were actually in the surf zone,” Iannucci said.

Iannucci and Bedsole met Wrightsville Beach park ranger Shannon Slocum Friday, April 18 to replace stakes and string along the dune line and reset “keep off the dunes” signs and posts.

“What we’re trying to do is get a little bit more permanent location with where the beach is now at high tide versus what it has been in the past, and get Fish and Wildlife and the [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] to approve a more permanent location and put stakes, kind of like the dune signs stakes that will be a little more secure and won’t come down every time they get wave action.”

The goal is to have the thicker, larger posts set deep in the sand without concrete, a larger diameter material, like yellow ski cord, in lieu of the string, and signs hanging with plastic zip ties on the cord. The location would remain the same during the summer and winter, unlike previous maintenance.

Iannucci said the county will probably visit the posting again this week with a small GPS to mark actual locations. The goal is to meet with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the next couple of weeks with changes implemented during the spring season.

“Then, we really have to get a determination of how the area needs to be managed, because that’s what Audubon was doing for us in the past,” Iannucci said. “We may go back out on contract for that, but right now we’re just trying to maintain it in the current location until that decision gets made.”

While Audubon no longer monitors the posting for the county, its biologists have been conducting international shorebird surveys on the north end.

“When we were there on our survey last week, there was no posting in front of the area where oystercatchers were beginning to nest,” Addison said.

She said she has seen a black skimmer killed during previous work in Florida from unmaintained postings like this.

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