At the Beach — May 1, 2014 at 5:00 am

How to Find Sand Dollars at the Beach

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shalamov / iStock / thinkstock.com

shalamov / iStock / thinkstock.com

Sand dollars are sea creatures, related to sea urchins and star fish, which are living specimens found in the bottom of the ocean. They burrow or nestle within the sea floor’s sand to protect itself from predators and debris. Sand dollars washed up on shore are the dried up exoskeleton remains, which are commonly collected amidst beach goers and shell collectors. Follow these steps below on how to find sand dollars that are in top condition and ideal shape.

Follow Thy Law
Most beaches and Department of Wildlife have rules and regulations for what can be taken home as a beach souvenir. Sand dollars should not be collected straight from the ocean, and picking them up is illegal at many seaside towns. Look up any beach combing rules or restrictions prior to searching as many towns restrict the number of sand dollars you can collect.

Time your Timing
The most ideal time to search for sand dollars is during low tide or morning hours. However, morning is most ideal as mid-afternoon low tides combine with high winds, which creates choppy water, thus flip flopping sand dollars every which way. High tide is a very challenging moment to explore for sand dollars, or searching for any beach specimens in general.

Check the Weather
If you don’t follow the lunar calendar, go online to find a tide chart. NOAA Tides and Weather.com are reputable sources for discovering low tides and weather reports. Also, searching after a storm is another ideal time as shells and sand dollars wash up on the shoreline.

Get Your Feet Active
Sometimes sand dollars are exposed on the top of the sand, but most of the time they are buried. Stand in shallow waters and shuffle your feet into the ocean floor. Do this slowly so it does not mix the sand into the water, thus reducing visibility. This is a bit discomforting for some, as crabs and other sea creatures may be crawling around the ocean floor and then nibble on your toes.

Watch the Waves
If digging your toes in the sand is nerve-wrecking, keep your eyes peeled on the receding waves. This may expose sand dollars that have washed up closer to shore.

Collect the Dead Dollars
Dead sand dollars will be white, or off-white, in color and usually one to 4 inches in diameter. Alive sand dollars are reddish-brown with additional exposed urchin-looking “arms” or fuzzy in nature. Be sure to pick up only the dead ones to take home, as the live ones are well, still alive.

Bring a Bucket
A bucket is always on a kid’s list of beach necessities. When it’s not being employed by the King of the Sand Castle, use it to wash off and store all those dollars you’ll be finding.

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