Screech Owl Rescue and Release

Screech Owl Rescue and Release: A Wildlife Success Story

by: Natural Resource Officer Sean Kortis


Watch a video of this owl’s release

Last month, I was working in town when I received a report from Sandy Neck Park Manager Nina Coleman regarding a small owl that was trapped within the chimney of a home in Marstons Mills. I drove with Coleman to the residence where we located the owl in the back corner of the fireplace. At first glance, the owl was difficult to locate. Owls are masters of camouflage, and this particular animal happened to be a Gray-Morph Eastern Screech Owl. Needless to say, it managed to blend in quite well with the ash inside the fireplace, and it took a few seconds to realize that it was not just a charred piece of wood we were looking at!

After locating and identifying the owl, we started on a rescue plan. I donned the bulky wildlife rescue gloves (Screech owls may be small, but their talons are no joke) while Coleman staged a safe barricade in front of the fireplace, just in case the owl decided to fly out into the house.

While we had the advantage of a small, confined fireplace, the owl still managed to evade several capture attempts by ducking under the grate and hopping from side to side. However, we were ultimately successful in capturing the animal and placing it safely in our wildlife rescue bin!


While the owl looked to be in good health, we wanted to first transport it to the Cape Wildlife Center in order to get a proper check-up and determine if the animal could be rehabbed and/or released. As always, Cape Wildlife Staff did a wonderful job in helping us out with this animal. After a few good checks, it was time to bring the animal to the aviary to determine if it could safely and successfully take-off, fly, and land. We followed Cape Wildlife staff to the aviary and watched this owl nail all three tests flawlessly. Besides smelling a little bit like soot, staff decided this animal was healthy. A silent flight and graceful landing meant it was ready to return home that day!


Coleman and I were joined by Sandy Neck Operations Supervisor Donna Bragg on a quest to find a nice location for this owl’s release. A scenic cranberry bog bordering a forested pocket of woods on the outskirts of a nearby Marstons Mills neighborhood seemed like a perfect fit. On our walk down to the bog, an owl pellet was observed on the ground in front of us – perhaps this was the owl’s domain before it found its way into a chimney during the last harsh winter storm?

owl pellet

After opening the wildlife box and grabbing the owl, it did not take long to take flight and return to the forest it likely called home. Watching it fly off, completely silent, weaving through a maze of branches, was an incredible sight and and incredible experience; to witness such a majestic bird in-person.

Throughout the years, we have observed, captured and rescued a lot of injured wildlife. Unfortunately, many of these animals do not get happy endings like this one. But this experience was something that I will never forget. To see such a majestic creature receive a second chance is special and it makes it all worthwhile.



Out of the winter and springing forward!

IMG_6724Time to get everyone caught up! Yes the Gatehouse was flooded not once but twice this winter! Bomb Cyclone Grayson put 14″ of storm surge into the Gatehouse on 1/4/2018 and then Riley came along on 3/2/2018 and hit us with 9″ inches of storm surge! So the Gatehouse has been redone twice in the past few months! We are pretty much back together and are now open. Here are some updates for you all.

Gatehouse is open for the month of April everyday from 9 am to 3:30 pm for the purchase of 2018 ORV (Off Road Vehicle) permits. We also have merchandise we are selling at a discount. Bomb Cyclone Underwater Merch! All of these items were under water from Grayson, they have been thoroughly cleaned and are on sale. Own a piece of SNK history while supplies last!

Now the other exciting stuff!  We have the 2018 Resident and Non-Resident ORV Applications online on the front page of our website at 
Scroll down and you will find them on the right side of the page under Notices. Print the application out, complete according to the instructions given and mail everything and we will process and get your 2018 ORV Permit in the mail. Make sure you include all the required paperwork, check and self addressed stamped envelope to make the process smooth. Your return envelope should be big enough so we can mail you the permit and the latest pamphlet of rules and regulations.

While you are on our website check out the new SNK App! This app will keep you informed and up to date regarding what is going on at Sandy Neck. Beach closures, weather, tides, everything you need to plan your day at Sandy Neck! Instructions to download the app are on the website. If you have any questions feel free to email me at:

Other news. The front dune has been re-nourished. The storms had done a lot of damage and we had lost most of the dune. The lower parking lot is now open to park and the entrances from the parking lot to the front beach are now open.

Stay tuned for more updates. Happy Spring!


Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays snk a

We wish the warmest Holiday season and thank you all for an amazing season!

There is a great selection of SNK merchandise at the Gatehouse for all your holiday shopping.

Give the gift of SNK this year!

Call the Gatehouse @ 508-362-8300 for an appointment.

New item just in!

Beautifully handcrafted SNK Skim Board.

Use it on the beach or hang it on the wall…


The 2017 Deer Hunt Begins at Sandy Neck

Deer Hunt


Last Wednesday, 15 hunters attended a meeting in order to secure their spot in the 2017 Sandy Neck Archery Deer Hunt. The hunt will take place this week November 20th – November 25th from 1/2 hour before sunrise until sunset each day.

The hunt will take place between Trail 2 – Trail 5. This means there will be No Off-Road Vehicle access beyond trail 2 during this time period (11/20-11/25) except for authorized archery hunters and property owners. The closed area will be well marked and gated off on the front beach – violating this closure will result in fines and/or ejection from the beach.


  • While much of the ORV corridor will be closed to vehicles, it is still okay to hike along the front beach of Sandy Neck during this week. In fact, hunting is never allowed within 150 feet of the front beach, and as such, is one of the safest places to recreate during the season, especially for any concerned hikers who may be unsure of what the hunting season might entail.
  • This is a special deer hunt, approved by the Town Manager, and only those who attended last week’s meeting and obtained valid authorization will be allowed to participate.
  • No other hunting activity will be allowed between Trail 2 -Trail 5 during this week. However, other hunting seasons are still open and hunters may still utilize other areas of the park.
  • A reminder that harassing hunters or intentionally disrupting hunting activities is prohibited and may result in fines and/or ejection from the beach.



Hunting on Sandy Neck: Tips for Hikers to Ensure Safe and Enjoyable Adventures


The Sandy Neck Marsh Trail, facing East.

The fall is a wonderful time of year. A warming sun brightens up the brisk October air as the leaves on the trees put on a spectacular display of changing color. The deep green grasses of the marshes turn to a fiery orange as the sun drops behind the horizon in the southwest, earlier and earlier each night. The fall welcomes all types of familiar wildlife, making their migrations to and from this region.


A Peregrine Falcon watching over its kingdom at Little Neck. The Fall is an excellent time for viewing the many species of migratory birds passing through the area.

The fall is also a great time of year to explore the beauty of Sandy Neck. Birders, hikers, artists, and photographers alike, all arrive to take in the serene landscapes and observe the magnificent wildlife found throughout the park. It is important to remember that the fall is also the start of hunting season. Hunters also come to Sandy Neck to enjoy all that it has to offer.

Many hikers have expressed their concern in regards to hunting in the park during this time of year. Here are some tips to follow in order to ensure everybody has a safe and enjoyable experience while out on Sandy Neck.

  • Hunting is allowed Monday-Saturday, 1/2 hour before sunrise until sunset.
  • Check in with the Gatehouse before hitting the trails. Hunters are required to sign-in at the gate, so we may be able to tell you if anyone is currently out hunting before your journey.


Deer run across the Barnstable Great Marsh, with a flock of Geese following in the background.
  • There will be a Sandy Neck Deer Hunt this year, information is as follows:

 Deer Hunt

  • Check the trailheads for informational signs (see below) about the hunting season. Signs are posted at the marsh trail gate, and all trails along the front beach, providing the allowed dates for certain game. Knowing who is out hunting what species can be greatly beneficial in understanding what to expect while out exploring.

hunting season 2017

  • There is no Hunting on Sundays! This is often the best time to hike out on Sandy Neck’s Marsh Trail system as there will be no worry of encountering hunting activity throughout the season.
  • Wearing a blaze orange cap is highly recommended, making it easy for others to see you while out on the trails. Research shows that Blaze orange saves lives.

2015-10-24 SNK Totem Land 018

  • Always stay on designated trails. This is especially important during hunting season. Remaining out in the open and away from thick brush will greatly minimize any risk of an incident.
  • Dogs run a higher risk of incidence with hunters due to unpredictable movements and their ability to be mistaken for other wildlife. If you are hiking with a dog, dressing them in an orange vest or attaching a bell to their collar is highly recommended.
  • There is no hunting allowed directly on the front beach. Hiking the front beach is a safe, consistent route this time of year and provides hikers with beautiful views of Cape Cod Bay every day.
  • Understand that hunters have every right to enjoy the same places, resources and experiences as others. Harassing hunters or intentionally disrupting hunting activities is prohibited and may result in fines and/or ejection from the beach.

Exploring Sandy Neck during the fall is a rewarding and gratifying experience for hunters and hikers alike. It is important that we all work together to share this beautiful park so that all can enjoy it safely and peacefully.


The Barnstable Great Marsh in a beautiful fall display.


An Eastern Coyote patrols the front beach of Sandy Neck Beach.

Sean Kortis Town of Barnstable Natural Resource Officer


Barnstable Natural Resource’s Annual Public Terrapin Release @ Sandy Neck

Check out this video of our annual public Terrapin Release courtesy of Cape Cod Community Media Center!

It was a beautiful afternoon, and despite high tides and a saturated marsh from the new moon, everyone had a blast – especially Lucky, Crimpy, Diamond and Last Chance who were eager to return to the marsh where they will spend the rest of their turtle lives!

4th of July on Sandy Neck Beach!

4th of July at Sandy Neck Beach Park

The Sandy Neck Beach Park Staff wishes to extend a warm welcome to everyone for the 2017 summer season at the beach!

4th of July

With the 4th of July fast approaching we want to update you on Beach conditions. The Off Road Vehicle Beach is open 1.25 miles.  The speed limit is 5 MPH.  Park on the berm, 30’ from the fence line, with your headlights facing the dunes.

Campers may park with either their headlights or taillights to the dunes. The first .6 miles is for campers. We ask those campers who park with the taillights to the dunes to put their hang tags in the rear window of the camper for easy viewing! Daytrippers may park with campers. Daytripper area is well marked and no campers will be allowed to park in Daytripper area.

The Sandy Neck Staff has been working extra hard to make this upcoming holiday a safe and successful one! In order to accommodate as many vehicles safely on the ORV (Off Road Vehicle) corridor during the peak times, Staff may assist in “stacking” vehicles during the parking process as conditions allow.

There will be NO two-wheel camper drive tests conducted from Friday, June 29th through Wednesday, July 5th.

There will be NO tow behind trailers allowed on the ORV corridor Friday, June 29th through Wednesday, July 5th.

We expect a busy 4th of July Holiday and want everyone to have fun and remain safe!  A couple of reminders to help you enjoy your time here at Sandy Neck:

1. On the ORV Corridor, dogs must be leashed at all times (15′ leash or less). No dogs allowed in parking lot or on public beach. No pets are allowed past the ORV closure line.

2. Fires are allowed in designated areas starting at 7 pm (please visit our web site for more information).

3. Per State of Massachusetts Fire Marshall regulations: NO Fireworks or Sky Lanterns are allowed to be set off from any beach.

4. No vehicles can enter the park after 9pm.

5. Curfew is 11 pm. You must be out of the park by that time.


Please call the gatehouse at 508-362-8300 with any questions

Thank you for making SandyNeckBeachPark your vacation destination!

Sandy Neck Beach Talk!





March is here and it is  time to start thinking happy beach thoughts and talk about your favorite beach; Sandy Neck!

Please  remember…As of March 1st, ALL dogs must be leashed when visiting the beach! Leash cannot be longer than 15′. Please pick up after your dog!

Let’s talk Off Road Vehicles!

A valid Sandy Neck Off Road Vehicle Permit is required year round to access the Off Road Beach…NO exceptions.  Some warmer days have enticed folks to come to the beach in the past couple of weeks and I am here to tell you, it is worth coming out!  Make sure you air all 4 tires down to 18 psi,  don’t park on the dune toe, or the flats, or anywhere else but the berm!  The ORV opens at 8 am and not before! You have to be aired up and out of the park by 4 pm and NO fires allowed.

I have had many, many phone calls from eager Sandy Neckers wanting to buy a 2017 permit. Your 2016 permit is good through April 15th, so relax!  We are getting ready to send out the renewal forms for the 2017 season. The Gatehouse will open on April 1st if you wish to buy a permit in person. Keep looking at the website for hours of operation and important information.

PLEASE slow down coming through the Gatehouse, even though we are not open, we are here and we have many people enjoying the warmer days and walking the Great Marsh Trail. SPEED LIMIT is 5 MPH! Thank you

Lastly, I have compiled a list of “frequently asked questions” which are available on the website but I am going to include them in this blog…The 2017 beach season is almost under way, and it is going to be a great one! Let’s work together to make is a wonderful and safe season for everyone!

Frequently asked questions

Off Road Vehicles (ORV):


How do I get an ORV permit?

ORV permits are available at the Sandy Neck Gatehouse.  You must bring your vehicle to the Gatehouse with the six (6) items of required equipment, a valid registration and your driver’s license.  Please check the web site for Gatehouse hours.


Note: The Gatehouse accepts cash, credit cards or checks. Checks are to be made out to the Town of Barnstable.


How much does an ORV permit cost?

ORV permits costs: Barnstable Residents $85, Non-Residents $170.  There is no longer a reduced fee for Sandwich residents.


What (equipment) do I need to drive on the beach?

There are six items of equipment required in order to purchase an ORV Permit.

1. An approved spare tire; check with the gatehouse to see if your tire will qualify if it is non-conforming.  NO run flat tires are acceptable at this time.

2. Tow device: minimum of 15 feet. Rope ¾” in diameter, OR strap, 6,800 lb capacity, 1 ½” wide, OR chain, 5/16” link, OR cable, 3/8” diameter, OR suitable vehicle mounted winch.

3. Jack: Standard type jack or hydraulic bottle jack.

4. Support board: for purpose of setting the jack on should you have a flat tire. 18”x 18” ¾” plywood or ¼” thick steel.

5. Shovel: heavy duty, equal to military folding type or better.

6. Tire gauge: low pressure type, must register 10 psi or lower.


I have all my equipment now what?

Every year, prior to issuance of an ORV permit, Gatehouse staff will inspect your six items of required equipment. This equipment is for your safety! We will also ask to see your valid vehicle registration and driver’s license.  You will then fill out the appropriate paperwork before you receive an ORV permit. A tide chart and a current copy of the Sandy Neck Beach Park Regulations are provided when you purchase your permit.


Barnstable residents will be required to show proof of residency. The only acceptable proof of residency are one of the following:

1. Vehicle registration with Barnstable street address (PO Box is not sufficient).

2. Deed or HUD statement with your name on it showing ownership of property in Barnstable.

3. Tax bill showing Barnstable address.

4. A lease of Barnstable property for the term of no less than one year.


Can I just take a drive on the beach to check it out?

No, an ORV permit is required to drive on the beach year round.


Do you sell a one-day pass to drive on the beach?

No, we only have yearly ORV permits.  We also sell an off-season permit for the fall and winter months that priced at a reduced rate.  These “seasonal permits” are not available until after Labor Day.


Does my ORV permit allow me to park in the parking lot?

No, you will need a Barnstable or Sandwich beach parking permit (sticker) during the season (Memorial Day through Labor Day). If you do not have either, you may purchase a daily parking pass at the Gatehouse.


Do I have to be a Barnstable resident to get an ORV permit?

No, we sell non-resident permits that are available for those who do not own property and/or live year-round in the town of Barnstable.


I have a permit, but I am getting a new vehicle, can I wait to put my permit on until I get my new truck?

No, in order to be valid, and prior to going out on the beach, the ORV permit has to be permanently affixed to the inside lower left corner of the windshield. For a fee, the Gatehouse will sell you a new permit should you need a replacement. Please bring in the  old permit, even if it is in pieces.


Off Road Vehicle (ORV) Campers:


I just bought a new camper. How do I get a permit?

In addition to the six (6) items of required equipment, self-contained vehicles must carry the following:

1. 30’ measuring device. Examples are: piece of rope 30’long, measuring tape 30’long.

2. Your vehicle must have permanently fixed separate gray and black tanks.

3. An operational carbon monoxide detector.

4. Any 2 wheel drive camper that is new to you, is required to have a 2 wheel drive test, even if it has been previously been on the beach. 2 wheel drive tests can be scheduled by calling the Gatehouse for an appointment. Tests are given Monday through Thursday, excluding holidays.

Note: The 30’ measuring device can be a piece of rope or string or a measuring tape or anything measuring 30’. This measuring device is used to make sure campers leave a 30’ right of way for entering and exiting the beach.


How long can I stay on the beach?

All self-contained vehicles, with appropriate permits, are allowed to stay on the beach for up to 96 hours. In season, there will be a charge per night for this opportunity: Barnstable Residents $10 per night, non-residents $20 per night. Campers must come off the beach for 24 hours before coming back to stay overnight on the beach.


I have friends staying with me at my Camper; can they sleep on the beach in a tent?

Everyone who spends the night on the front beach must sleep in the camper, no exceptions. Only camper and chase vehicles are allowed on the beach after curfew.


What is a chase vehicle and how much does the permit cost?

All chase vehicles are required to purchase an ORV permit at the regular price. In addition, chase vehicles must have their own six items of required equipment. Once permitted, the chase vehicle may be assigned to a camper. The chase vehicle will receive a circle permit at no extra charge that shows that the chase belongs with that camper. Only one chase vehicle is allowed per camper and that vehicle is allowed to stay overnight on the beach with the camper. A separate charge of $5 per night fee is required in order for the chase vehicle stay out on the beach overnight. In addition, no one is allowed to sleep in the chase vehicle.


Off Road Vehicle & Parking Lot Fishing Access:


I want to fish with the tides but it is past curfew, how does that work?

Fishermen who want to take advantage of the great fishing at Sandy Neck may “fish with the tides” providing that each person has proper fishing equipment: Fishing rod, bait and tackle and must be actively fishing. Fishermen will be asked to show these items to the Gatehouse Attendant and or the Natural Resource Officer on duty.


Off Road Vehicle Access Hours:


I have a permit so I can go on and off the beach anytime right?

In season, April 1st through October 31st, Off Road Vehicle hours are:  8am to 11pm. You must be past the gatehouse by 9pm to stay out until curfew. All vehicles must exit the park by 11pm.

Off season, November 1st through March 31st, Off Road Vehicle hours are: 8am to 4pm. All vehicles must exit the park by 4pm.


Note: If beach conditions are unsafe, the staff will close the beach to Off Road Vehicles and the beach access road will be blocked off. You may wish to consult the website or call the Gatehouse prior to coming to the beach if you are unsure of the conditions.  The Off Road Vehicle beach access may be closed due to a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, high tides, storm conditions, shorebird nesting protection, or other stranded wildlife on beach.





I read that Sandy Neck is a dog friendly beach. Can I bring my dog to Sandy Neck Beach?

We LOVE dogs, and if you follow the Town of Barnstable and Sandy Neck dog regulations, you and your pet will have a wonderful experience at Sandy Neck.


  • All dogs must be leashed, (15’ leash or less) from March 1st until September 15th.


  • Dogs are NOT allowed on BodfishBeach (including the beach parking lots), from May 15th through September 15th.  BodfishBeach is the section of public bathing beach located in front of the Sandy Neck parking lots that is designated by “Lifeguard On Duty” signs.


  • Dogs are allowed on the Off Road Vehicle (ORV) Beach year round.  Vehicles with ORV permits are the only ones authorized to drive past the Gatehouse with a dog in the vehicle from May 15th to September 15th.


  • Dogs are allowed on the Great Marsh Hiking Trail. The entrance to the Great Marsh Hiking Trail is located at the Gatehouse.  Parking for people with dogs is available but not guaranteed at the Gatehouse when space is available.


  • Dogs can be walked down the Great Marsh Hiking Trail from the Gatehouse and can access the Off Road Vehicle Beach via Trail 1 (approx. 1 mile hike).


  • Dogs can be walked down the Access Trail from the Gatehouse to get to the Off Road Vehicle Beach (approx. ½ mile hike).



Please note: When accessing the Off Road Vehicle Beach, either by way of the Great Marsh Hiking Trail or the Off Road Vehicle Access road; you and your pet will be walking through deep sand and or pavement and in the summer months it may be too hot for you or your pet. Both you and your pet will need plenty of water! Hot sand or pavement will scorch the pads of a dog’s paws and in some cases they may suffer from heat exhaustion!  Please see the Gatehouse Supervisor for recommendations regarding temperatures and conditions.





I just want to see the beach, why can’t I just drive up and take a look and turn around?

Bodfish, (the SandyNeckPublicBeach) has limited parking and unfortunately it would not be possible to let folks just do a “drive-by” during business hours. There is a charge each day for beach parking from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day from 8am to 5pm. There is no charge after 5pm.


NOTE: Sometimes during peak days in the summer the parking lot gets full early.  We may have to ask you to turn around and leave the park once the lot is full. This is a safety issue and we need to keep Sandy Neck Road clear in case of an emergency. Whether you are a visitor to the beach or a resident of Barnstable or Sandwich and have a beach parking permit, we will ask you to turn around at the Gatehouse and leave the park. We suggest you either visit another beach, or try coming back later on. We allow only five vehicles to queue up for upcoming available spots.  Sandy Neck Policies state that five (5) vehicles must exit the Bodfish parking lot prior to allowing five (5) up. We apologize for any inconvenience.


There are parking spaces at the Gatehouse. Why can’t I just park there and walk up?

The parking at the Gatehouse is reserved for people hiking the Great Marsh Trail and employees. No one is allowed to park at the Gatehouse and walk up to the BodfishBeach parking lot.


If I do not want to stay at Sandy Neck, can I get my money back?

While we wish to accommodate refund requests, it clearly states on the daily parking pass that there are no refunds. That being said, if Sandy Neck is not quite to your liking, we will be happy to give you directions to another BarnstableBeach. The daily beach parking pass you purchase is good for all the public beaches in Barnstable for that date. Please see the list of beaches on the reverse side of the parking pass.



PublicBeach access:


How late can I stay at the beach?

  • In season, (April 1st through October 31st ) the hours are 8am to 11pm. You must be through the Gatehouse by 9pm to stay on the beach until curfew. All vehicles must exit the park by 11pm.
  • Off season, (November 1st through March 31st ) the parking lot closes at 9pm.


The Sandy Neck Lighthouse:


How do I get to the Sandy Neck Lighthouse from here?

The Sandy Neck Lighthouse is privately owned and is located at the tip of Sandy Neck, approximately a 6.5 mile one way hike through deep sand. There are no public lighthouse tours and no paved roads to drive to see it up close. To view the lighthouse it is suggested that you go to BarnstableHarbor, MillwayBeach. Please remember that Millway is a Barnstable Resident only beach so you may have to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to get a view of the lighthouse.


Tent camping information:


We are asked all the time about our tent camping. It is a primitive campground with 5 sites and it is more than 3.3 mile hike through deep sand out to the sites. Tent campers must carry all their camping equipment out on foot. No one can access the campground by vehicle on the front beach.



Beach Campfires:


How can I have a campfire on the beach?


  • People who have ORV permits have permission to have a campfire on the ORV beach after 7pm or sunset, whichever comes first.


  • People without ORV permits can purchase a daily campfire permit from the Gatehouse.  The daily campfire permit will provide you with the rules and regulations as well as the allowed location for your campfire. The permits go on sale at 5pm daily and the number of campfires may be limited.


  • No campfires are allowed anywhere on the beach in the off season, November 1st through March 31st.




I see the closed sign on the Gatehouse; does that mean I can’t go out on the beach?

The Gatehouse is closed in the winter and reopens in April. The staff is in and out of the Gatehouse during these months, doing projects and getting ready for the upcoming season. As long as you are entering the park at the appropriate Off Road Vehicle hours, and you have a current Off Road Vehicle permit, you may go out on the beach.


Note: If beach conditions are unsafe, the staff will close the beach to Off Road Vehicles and the beach access road will be blocked off. You may wish to consult the website or call the Gatehouse prior to coming to the beach if you are unsure of the conditions.


I want to purchase an Off Road Vehicle permit but the Gatehouse is closed, what do I do?

You can still purchase a current year sticker, even when we are not keeping regular hours at the Gatehouse. Call the Gatehouse 508-362-8300 to make an appointment. If no one is there, please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible.


I want to purchase official Sandy Neck Merchandise, but the Gatehouse is closed what do I do?

You can still purchase official Sandy Neck merchandise by calling the Gatehouse 508-362-8300 to set up an appointment. If you are driving to the beach and see someone in the Gatehouse, feel free to stop and knock on the door. We will be more than happy to accommodate you!



If you do not see the answer to your question here, please call the

Gatehouse: 508-362-8300