Watch Out for Tagged Horseshoe Crabs
You may know from reading my post in November 2018 that partners in the Indian River Lagoon are expanding the Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch citizen science program into Brevard and Indian River counties. The program takes advantage of the beach nesting behavior of horseshoe crabs to collect valuable information. Volunteers walk a known section of beach at predetermined times and count the number of horseshoe crab mating groups observed. A small subset of those crabs counted are collected, tagged with a small numbered disc, and released back into the wild, and information about those crab is documented.
Interested volunteers attended trainings in January. They have already started monitoring and surveying at sites in the Indian River Lagoon. The two sites in Brevard County are Kelly Park East in Merritt Island and Parrish Park in Titusville. There are two sites in Indian River County in Sebastian. One of the most important parts of the program is the reporting of tagged horseshoe crabs and reappearances on beaches. This is because these reports help track crab movements. It also helps get an idea of the size of the population.
Report sightings of tagged horseshoe crabs
Anyone can report sightings of tagged horseshoe crabs. If you see a tagged crab (like the one in the photo below):
- Snap a picture of the tag or record the tag # (number is on the bottom of the tag)
- Note the date, location, and general condition of the crab (alive or dead)
- Report data using the online form at www.fws.gov/crabtag or by calling 1-888-546-8587 (1-888-LIMULUS)
It’s important to NOT remove the tag. When recording the tag number, try to limit disturbing the horseshoe crab. Try not to pick the crab up. If you must pick the crab up for some reason, DO NOT pick it up by the tail. Sighting data goes into the national database maintained by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It contributes to knowledge about horseshoe crab movements and population numbers.
For more information about the Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch program and about horseshoe crabs please visit myFWC.com/HorseshoeCrabs.