University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

WDDE: Rebounding horseshoe crab population draws increasing interest

For around 450 million years, Horseshoe crabs have crawled ashore to spawn on moonlit nights – much like a recent one at Pickering Beach on the Delaware Bay.For around three decades, wildlife enthusiasts have gone out to survey them doing this. Stew Michels, program director for Delaware’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, is leading one of the numerous crab survey crews walking 23 beaches on both sides of the Delaware Bay the night WDDE joined them.

“Each team goes 20 meters. We will be sampling a one meter quad for every ten meters of beach over a whole kilometer stretch. And we’ll just keep kinda leap frogging down the beach,” said Michels.

The most recent estimate in 2003 put the population in the Bay around 20 million crabs. Michels says, since then data from the survey suggests a stable if not growing population.