Seashells Cover North Carolina Beaches as COVID-19 Lockdown Forces Visitors Away

North Carolina's beaches are teeming with seashells after the National Park Service (NPS) took steps to limit visitor access to the Outer Banks islands during the coronavirus lockdown.

Cape Lookout National Seashore shared a video of a beach covered in shells taken by a ranger on patrol over the weekend.

A day at the beach, Cape Lookout National Seashore -- no narration

Postcards from the beach -- Need your beach fix? This short video was sent to me this weekend from the ranger on patrol.Video has no narration -- only sounds are from the wind and waves.

Posted by Cape Lookout National Seashore on Monday, April 13, 2020

In normal circumstances, the shells would be free game for visitors, who are allowed to take up to 2 gallons of shells from Cape Lookout National Seashore each day. However, activity on the beach has been a lot quieter in recent weeks as Americans embrace social distancing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Facilities and services at the National Park Service's (NPS) Cape Lookout National Seashore have been suspended following Gov. Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order, issued on March 27. While beaches have remained open during the lockdown, visitors are restricted to groups of ten or fewer.

Without people to collect them, the shells have been allowed to gather—resulting in the scenes captured in the video.

A few would have belonged to crustaceans but most of the shells have been left behind by mollusks—a group of 70,000 plus species that are recognizable for their hard exo-skeletons (shells) that are designed to protect their soft bodies.

The group includes species of clams, snails, oysters and squid. Some of the shells that wash up on the beaches of Cape Lookout National Seashore in the southernmost portion of the Outer Banks would have been produced by species such as the Queen Helmet, the Bay Scallop and the Atlantic Moon Snail, which also known as a Shark's eye.

The build up of mollusk shells is not the only development shared by the park in recent days while the state remains in lockdown.

Last week, the park shared images of wild horses enjoying the bare beaches in Shackleford Banks, a barrier island that lies to the south of Cape Lookout National Seashore.

According to NPS, the region is home to more than 100 individual horses. The first foal of the herd was born earlier this month—and it was a boy.

Other parks have also been noticing changes related to the coronavirus pandemic. The absence of people and exhaust fumes in the normally bustling Yosemite has seen coyotes, bobcats and other wildlife flocking to areas normally occupied by visitors, The LA Times reports. Park ranger Katy said the park's bears "are having a party."

"The bears, they normally have to pick these little corridors that they have to move through in the valley to get from point A to point B," she said in a live conversation. "Now that there are no people, the bears are literally just walking down the road to get to where they need to go."

As for what might happen when people return, ranger Katy said the bears are pretty good at knowing where people are and when. However, she expects the bears will have to go through a learning curve when the park does re-open to visitors as the animals readjust to the presence of humans.

Seashell
A lone seashell at Wrightsville Beach, NC, USA. Seashells cover North Carolina beaches during COVID-19 lockdown. Darwin Brandis/iStock