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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : Delaware Coastal Programs : DNERR : DNERR HSC Spawning Survey



Delaware Bay Horseshoe Crab Spawning Survey 

What is the spawning survey?

Since 1990, surveys have been conducted of horseshoe crabs spawning in Delaware Bay. Data collected by volunteers during these surveys is key for scientists in monitoring changes in numbers of spawning crabs in the Bay. Each spring during the new and full moon evening high tides in May and June, volunteers donate their time to count crabs on key beaches in Delaware and in New Jersey. Delaware’s well-trained and enthusiastic volunteers have made this program one of the most successful volunteer-based wildlife surveys in the country.

For general information about the Horseshoe Crab spawning surveys assist with one of the other beaches, please visit the main Delaware Bay Horseshoe Crab Spawning Survey website.



What role does DNERR play? The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR) coordinates the survey on three Delaware Bay beaches each spring (Kitts Hummock, Ted Harvey Wildlife Area, North Bowers Beach). This is a wonderful way to see this natural spectacle on the Delaware Bay and we invite anyone who is interested in this fascinating creature to participate! *Volunteers are required to be trained in survey protocols before being able to participate in a survey.*


How do I become a volunteer with DNERR?

1) Meet our volunteer requirements. All volunteers must be 13 years of age or older to participate in the horseshoe crab spawning survey. Any children between the ages of 13 and 18 must be accompanied by an adult and have a signed parental consent form.

2) Attend a training held at the St. Jones Reserve in Dover, Del. before the spawning season begins.
DNERR holds three volunteer training sessions each year in the early spring for anyone interested in assisting with the Horseshoe Crab Spawning survey at the St. Jones Reserve. All new volunteers are required to attend a training session their first season, and then once every three years after the first training. During the training, volunteers learn how to conduct the survey, how to properly record data and how to distinguish between male and female horseshoe crabs. The training also highlights the results of horseshoe crab survey data from previous years and how it is being used. Participants who are interested in other Delaware Bay beaches not coordinated by the DNERR are welcome to attend the training and will be referred to the appropriate beach leader for further information.

NOTE: All 2016 DNERR training sessions have now been held; please check back with this webpage next year for 2017 training opportunities.

3) Select the dates you want to volunteer.
Volunteers will then be asked to select their preferred survey dates through an online registration system so that we can fairly distribute survey night and beach assignments. The online registration link will be made available after the trainings have ended to past volunteers that would like to participate again and to new volunteers that have attended a training. After you provide your preferred survey dates we will contact you to let you know which ones we will need your help with. The 2016 survey dates can be found here.


That's all it takes to become a horseshoe crab volunteer, so what are you waiting for?


Already a horseshoe crab volunteer? Refresh your memory with this document about what is expected of you when you arrive on your assigned survey nights. 

For more information contact:


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