Thousands upon thousands of Dungeness crab shells have washed up on the beach in the Cherry Point area in recent weeks.

There have been so many that beachgoers contacted the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife earlier in April and emailed photos of what they saw, worried that they were witnessing a massive die-off.

They weren’t, officials said, because the shells and legs found in north Whatcom County were from crabs that were molting.

That’s a process in which crabs shed their hard shells, or exoskeletons, so they can grow into new, larger shells. By the time they’re 2 years old, Dungeness crabs have molted about 12 times.

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