Party time over for the red fox at Masonboro, possibly holiday crowds

by Daniel Bowden
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Lumina News file photo 

Members of the Masonboro Local Advisory Committee expressed frustration with the crowd that inundates the island every July Fourth during a recent meeting. Last July Fourth saw an increase in dangerous illegal behavior, and volunteers removed two dumpsters worth of waste from Masonboro.

The Masonboro Local Advisory Committee met at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Marine Sciences on Monday, Nov. 5.  Hope Sutton, stewardship coordinator and southern sites manager for the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and the National Estuarine Research Reserve gave committee members a general update about the site and led the discussion about issues facing the future of Masonboro Island. 

“We had a very busy but good season,” Sutton said, regarding research and monitoring programs for species of concern.

Sutton reported 24 sea turtle nests on the island and an 84-percent hatch rate for eggs that survived the incubation period. Fifty-eight percent of the nests experienced some form of predation and two nests were lost after Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy resulted in some light erosion and overwash for Masonboro. It also caused a sailboat to wash up on the island. 

Lieutenant M. Payne of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Patrol asked that all instances of abandoned vessels be reported to the sheriff’s patrol. It is currently working on securing funding for a program that would allow for the removal of derelict vessels from waterways.

Red foxes are responsible for the majority of predation on sea turtle nests, Sutton said, and NCCR has allocated a portion of the sea turtle conservation funds to start a red fox removal program. The program is scheduled to begin in December or January and its goal is complete eradication of the red fox population on Masonboro Island either by live trapping or selective shooting.

Several members of the committee expressed the need for more education regarding Masonboro Island in schools, and Sutton said she was currently working to create a position for an education and outreach coordinator. This position would be created by next fall, and would deal specifically with Masonboro and other southern North Carolina sites.

In addition, Sutton will begin the installation of educational signs around Masonboro in December. These signs will be placed on the northern half of the island, which sees higher foot traffic, and are designed to inform visitors about the island and the research conducted there.  

The issue of July Fourth activity had most members of the committee frustrated.

“That is my biggest headache of the year,” Payne said, citing lack of resources as a major concern. “I still have all the other waterways in the county to patrol.”

The general consensus between Sutton and the rest of the committee was that it was time to end the party. Last July Fourth saw an increase in dangerous illegal behavior, and volunteers removed two dumpsters worth of waste from Masonboro.

Sutton also informed committee members that the Army Corp of Engineers would be repairing the Masonboro jetty in the next couple months, and said they should expect to see a barge and crane placing rock on the ocean side.

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