Saturday, June 3, 2017

300 Million Years and Counting

Older than the dinosaurs, Horseshoe Crabs (not actually a crab!) have been around a very long time.

And every spring they return to the beaches of what is now the Delaware Bay to mate and lay eggs in the sand.

The smaller males gather 'round the larger females, and it's not unusual to see half a dozen males attending one female, to mate.

Unfortunately, as with too many of the creatures we share the planet with, Horseshoe Crab numbers are in decline. Habitat destruction, the beach just blocks from where I grew up was covered with them when I was young; that beach is now a harbor for sailboats, and harvesting, they are used for bait and medical research, are taking their toll.

I'm proud to say that since 2008 my home state of New Jersey has had a moratorium on harvesting in NJ waters. And while the other states have not followed suit the harvest is regulated.

To track how the population is doing population survey counts and tagging programs are employed.

The fine specimen above wearing a US Fish and Wildlife Service tag (I reported this fellow using the website on the tag). Hopefully, programs such as these won't be axed by the current administration.

We saw these crabs on a birding trip to south Jersey. The ones above all on the beach at Fortescue. The ones below were at Heislerville WMA. And the ones below were on the wrong side of the dike. A combination of storms and high tides flooded the area and many crabs were stranded. The two below were in a puddle on the side of the road.

Along with several others.

We rescued a bunch of them.

Here is my friend Bernie going in for the one above ...

... captured ...

.... and released.

It turns out we were not alone in rescuing the crabs. The Return the Favor program organizes walks to rescue crabs. A very noble cause and  one worthy of your support.

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