Ghost crab hunting is a fun beach activity that is perfect for the cooler months on the Outer Banks. You don’t have to go swimming in the ocean and you won’t even need sunlight. When you are ghost crab hunting you aren’t actually hunting to capture or harm ghost crabs. Ghost crab hunting is a searching and chasing adventure. Ghost crabs are skittish creatures that are easily scared away, and are not frequently seen on the beaches during daylight hours.
Where They Live
Ghost crabs stay burrowed in the sand during most of the day. You can spot their entry and exit holes on the beach, which are typically about the size of a golf ball. These entryways seem small, but under the sand their tunnels can branch out into multiple tunnels and even extend down to four feet deep.
Why They Are Hard to Find
A ghost crab has eyes that can rotate 360 degrees, allowing it to notice subtle movements from humans and predators and quickly scurry away to safety. Ghost crabs are also good at camouflaging into the beach landscape. They have a light grey sandy color and appear almost translucent. You must really be paying attention to notice a ghost crab in the sand. Most ghost crabs will average about 2 inches across, but you may find some smaller or larger. There are many different species of ghost crab around the world, but you will likely only encounter the Atlantic Ghost Crab on the Outer Banks.
How to Find Them
The best time to search for ghost crabs is after dark. They stay burrowed in the sand during the day and emerge at night to eat and explore the empty beaches. Once you are on the beach, move quietly and slowly to avoid scaring away any crabs that may be near you. Bring a flashlight. Like a deer in headlights, ghost crabs will remain completely still when the light is initially shined on them, then after a few seconds they will scurry off into the darkness. Look for their entry/exit holes in the sand for clues of their whereabouts. Remember, the goal of ghost crab hunting is NOT to hurt the crab – the fun is in the chase!