Hate to Be a Crab --But Hands Off a Hermit's Home

Dan Woodman, 39, grew up in Redondo Beach, where he learned to love and respect the ocean and the creatures living in it, especially homeless hermit crabs.

"You read every day about dead seals washing up on the beach and oil spills in Alaska and everything getting messed up, and that's sad," Woodman said. "But when I saw these little crabs having trouble finding a home at the tide pool, it just hit a spot in me, and I couldn't let it go."

He said people who flock to ocean tide pools--especially the one at Crystal Cove State Beach in Corona del Mar--are scooping up sea shells and creating a terrible housing shortage for the crabs that live there.

Woodman, now an Anaheim resident who owns a carpet and floor cleaning business, said hermit crabs live mainly in empty snail shells and change their residence four times a year.

"Without the shells, the crabs are homeless and get eaten up by fish and birds," he said.

Because the hermit crab also plays an important role by feeding off garbage in the ocean that might otherwise kill small fish, Woodman collects snail shells and plants them in the tide pools.

"A lot of people are helping by sending shells to me," he said. "I really enjoy going to the tide pools with a bunch of the shells and hold open house for the crabs. They jump right to them."

After word got out of his effort, "It just sort of snowballed, and the next thing I knew, people from all over the county were bringing me shells from their own collections, and a lot were mailing them to me."

He said shells have been sent to him from as far away as Florida and Hawaii.

The help from others, he said, is important. "It takes all of us to realize what's happening and try to stop it, whether it's the whales or hermit crabs," he said. "You really can't do anything as one person."

Woodman estimated that he has collected and planted 10,000 sea shells.

He noted, however, that as hermit crabs get older and bigger, they need larger shells and seek out the more attractive kelp-snail shells--which collectors favor.

"I really wish people would lay off (taking shells) for a while so the crabs can have a home and survive," he said.

"They are lowly little creatures, but they have their purpose and really play an important role."

Each month the Orange County Municipal Water District uses a slogan about water on the calendar it distributes to legislators, water agencies and local businesses. It also holds a yearly contest for slogans.

So it was unusual when Laura J. Westermeier and Peggy Dinn, 6th-grade students from the same bilingual science class at Lathrop Middle School in Santa Ana, came up with winning slogans.

Peggy's entry was, "There should be no hesitation about water conservation."

Laura offered, "Water is for fish. Water is for people. Water is for everyone, not only for one."

Both received a calendar and a certificate.

Acknowledgments--Anaheim resident Deborah Moore, a consistent volunteer with senior citizens, children and the Salvation Army, has been named 1989 Woman of the Year for the 71st Assembly District by Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress). Moore works as a crime prevention specialist for the Anaheim Police Department.

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