Flipping Horseshoe Crabs

We spent Memorial Day weekend by visiting Wildwoods Boardwalk for the first time so we thought this past weekend we would hit the Delaware Bay side of this strip of New Jersey we currently inhabit.

I had read that “Horseshoe Crabs” would be on the beach in the hundreds (or more) as it was their spawning time. Apparently, Delaware Bay has the largest population of horseshoe crabs in the world and considering they are basically a “living fossil”, it’s about the closest you can get to something like a dinosaur. I also read about something called “flipping” the crabs. So, of course I had to find out what all the fuss was about.

I found information on the “flipping” of the crabs at New Jersey Audubon so armed with this information, headed out to do some “flipping”.

My husband and I arrived at one of the mostly secluded beaches and walked out to the soft sand. Almost as soon as we crossed the sparse vegetation and stepped onto the open beach we could see hundreds and hundreds of horseshoe crabs and thousands of shore birds.

I was not prepared for how odd they look and how HUGE they can get. These are some of the strangest looking creatures I have ever seen in my life!!

They are SO COOL.

We began walking the beach and within a few steps we found our first upside down horseshoe crab. Following the advice from NJ Audubon, we “flipped” it over and continued on to the next one.

We flipped at least 20 of them in the small area we explored and not only did I have a giggling fit doing so (I’m “flipping” what essentially feels like a dinosaur) but I completely fell in love with the area. I could spend almost every waking moment for the rest of my life on the Delaware Bay and I’d be a happy person.

It was so quiet and peaceful. Nothing but the sound of the water and shore birds plus a few dogs romping on the beach. Much more my “every day” style then the crowded, albeit fun, ocean side of the Jersey Shore.

I did a little more research on these creatures when we got home later that day and I was sad to read that according to the Wetland Institute located in Stone Harbor, Delaware Bay’s Horseshoe Crab population has declined by 90% over the last 15 years mostly due to over-harvesting and habitat degradation.

Folks around here are so serious about flipping & rescuing these creatures that The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey recently held a HORSESHOE CRAB RESCUE event. Pretty fascinating to read about volunteers rushing out at a moment’s notice to help stranded crabs get back to the water.

If you find yourself in the area in May or June and want to check out this cool natural event, maybe even flip some yourself, follow this advice from NJ Audubon:

If you are walking on the beach and come across an upside-down horseshoe crab, you can help too! Please follow this guidance:

1. Turn over the horseshoe crab gently by its side. Don’t hold it by the tail, as this could injure the horseshoe crab. They look a little scary, but they don’t bite!

2. NJ state law forbids the removal of horseshoe crabs or their parts from the beach.

3. If you see shorebirds on the beach or near the horseshoe crabs, give them plenty of room and avoid scaring them away.

And have fun giving our local Delaware Bay wildlife a hand.

Safe Travels!

~ Alesia