South Carolina

Horseshoe crabs can flip over and get stuck. Here’s how to help them

See a stranded horseshoe crab on the beach? Flip it over — and save its life

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is urging anyone who sees a horseshoe crab stranded on the beach to gently flip the crab over and place it back in the water. And don't worry! Their claws can't hurt you.
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The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is urging anyone who sees a horseshoe crab stranded on the beach to gently flip the crab over and place it back in the water. And don't worry! Their claws can't hurt you.

As spring moves into summer, horseshoe crabs come out of the water during full and new moons to mate. Along the coast, the prehistoric creatures come ashore to lay their eggs, wildlife officials say.

But some can get flipped over onto their hard shell backs, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Most can right themselves with their long spike-like tails and get back into the water, but some get stranded and cannot flip back over, DNR says in a new video.

“The ancestors of these creatures, more closely related to scorpions than true crabs, have come aground to mate and lay their eggs since before the dawn of the dinosaurs,” South Carolina wildlife officials say.

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“Studies estimate that around 10% of breeding crabs may die each year after becoming stranded on beaches, pushed upside down by waves. Horseshoe crabs can survive for a time out of water as long as their gills remain wet, but the heat of a sunny day can quickly dry out and kill an upside-down crab,” according to DNR.

That 10% could use a little human intervention to help them make it back into the ocean.

South Carolina’s DNR says the best way to save a stranded horseshoe crab is to pick it up gently by the shell, flip it over and put it back down. That’s it. You can move it to the water if you want even more to help send it on its way back home to the ocean.

“Never pick up a horseshoe crab by its tail,” DNR says. “This can harm the animal and damage its ability to flip itself over in the future.”

But don’t worry, state marine biologists say: All those tiny claws are harmless.

Horseshoe crabs are all over area beaches during the spring. Here are 10 facts about the mysterious prehistoric creatures of the Lowcountry.

Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.

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