A mysterious rash of vandalism has erupted at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and the culprits seem to be targeting mostly Jeep Wranglers, the National Park Service says.
Dozens of tires have been slashed on Bodie and Hatteras islands between July 11 and July 21, including instances where all four tires on a vehicle and even the spare were gouged, the park service said in a press release.
Five of the seven vehicles involved were Jeep Wranglers, and “in most of the cases, at least four tires were punctured,” officials said.
“Damage to vehicle tires has also been reported to law enforcement in areas north of the (National) Seashore,” a press release said. “National Park Service Rangers are increasing patrols at all Seashore parking lots and are coordinating investigative efforts with Dare County, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head law enforcement officials.”
Cape Hatteras officials did not speculate on why Jeep Wranglers were targeted.
Some popular spots on the Outer Banks have a history of allowing Jeeps and other off-road vehicles to drive on the beaches, which has long been a source of controversy.
In the Corolla area, a wild horse was killed last summer after being struck by an off-road vehicle, and a second wild horse was injured this month when hit by yet another vehicle, according to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.
The National Park Service told The Charlotte Observer “the majority of the vandalized vehicles were parked in paved parking lots where people typically walk to the beach not drive on the beach.”
Island Free Press writer Sam Walker reported Friday that two SUVs had their tires slashed at a Kill Devil Hills beach access. The Free Press said the vandalized vehicles at the national park did not have Outer Banks license tags, suggesting culprits were targeting visitors.
It is the height of the summer season at the national park, with thousands of tourists visiting beaches and historic sites, such as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The coastal park reported 2.5 million visitors last year, a 5.7 percent increase over the previous year, according to the National Park Service.