Paddling with the Crab Wrangler

Ethan the Horseshoe Crab Wrangler!

Ethan the Horseshoe Crab Wrangler!

Leading a tour through the salt marsh at Burton’s Island this time of year is a little more challenging. It’s well beyond the prime breeding season for horseshoe crabs and, like the paddlers who go to Assateague Island in hopes of kayaking close to the ponies, paddlers to Burton’s Island hope to see limulus polyphemus up close.

In late May, June and early July, it isn’t difficult to accommodate them. In early September, it’s an almost inch-by-inch quest of the island. But, if the “horseshoe crab wrangler” is among the paddling group, it’s a no-brainer.

Almost as soon as we landed for some beachcombing, young Ethan from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, zeroed in on every shell he saw.

“Is that one?” he asked, pointing to a female. “Yes,” I said, “but that one’s dead and they’re not as much fun to play with.”

“How about this one?” he asked, picking up a male. “Sorry. That’s just an empty shell.”

“There’s one,” he said, pointing into the water. And, it was. A male in search of a mate, probably not realizing that he’d stand a better chance on than by crawling around the beach this time of year.

Though Ethan was as interested as his paddling partners in my horseshoe crab presentation — and very interested in holding a live one in his hands — he wasn’t going to go home with the memory of just one. So, he looked and found another; then another!

Right away, I asked if he wanted a job. His immediate, beaming reply: “YES.”

— Cap’n Bob

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