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MEDIA RELEASE: Endangered Piping Plovers Return to Southern Maine

Thursday, April 24th, 2014
Posted on:

Photo: Amanda Reed


For Immediate Release

April 24, 2014

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications & Marketing Manager
[email protected]
(207) 781-6180 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511

Endangered Piping Plovers Return to Southern Maine
Maine Audubon reminds beach-goers and landowners to be aware of nesting areas

FALMOUTH – Maine Audubon reported today that several Piping Plover nesting pairs have returned to southern Maine beaches. All beach goers and beachfront landowners along the coast should be aware of nesting plovers, from Ogunquit Beach up the coast to Reid State Park in Georgetown. As of April 1, no dogs are allowed on Ogunquit Beach and in state parks, including Crescent Beach in Cape Elizabeth, Ferry Beach in Saco, Scarborough Beach, Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg and Reid State Park in Georgetown. Dog ordinances vary by town on local town beaches. Please check with your local town office.

Piping Plovers are listed as an endangered species in Maine and are threatened under federal law. The Piping Plover Recovery Project, a collaboration between Maine Audubon, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and local municipalities, works to educate the public about plover nesting areas to ensure their protection and increase their population.

Historically, Maine has had more than 30 miles of suitable nesting beaches that may have supported more than 200 pairs of Piping Plovers. Today, because of encroaching development, the available shoreline habitat for nesting plovers has been reduced by 75 percent. Last year, there were only 44 nesting pairs in the state, from Ogunquit to Georgetown. Plovers nest in front of sand dunes on the upper beach and are vulnerable to natural predators, roaming pets, storms and human disturbance. Maine Audubon encourages beach goers and landowners to reduce human-caused mortality of plovers by leaving your pets at home when you go to the beach, staying away from roped off plover areas and to watch where you are walking on the beach to avoid stepping on nests.

If you find a plover nest, or would like to volunteer for the Piping Plover Recovery Project, please contact Laura Minich Zitske at [email protected] or (207) 233-6811 or the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) at (207) 657-2345.


About Maine Audubon

Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization in the state, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife. For everyone.

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Feds investigate endangered bird’s death at Scarborough beach; town could face fine of at least $25,000

Monday, August 5th, 2013
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Death of Piping Plover Serves as Reminder to Keep Dogs on Leash

Thursday, August 1st, 2013
Posted on:
Photo: Doug Hitchcox 2007

Photo: Doug Hitchcox 2007

By: Katie Burns and Mary Badger (Piping Plover project interns)

On Monday, July 15, our biologists received concerning news. The Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center called the Piping Plover/Least Tern Project office to report that a dead piping plover fledgling (learning to fly) had been delivered to the Center. The citizen who brought in the plover witnessed the bird being attacked by an off-leash dog.

The death of this plover fledgling was particularly devastating as it had been the only chick to hatch from its brood. The parents had chosen a rather challenging spot to nest on Pine Point Beach in Scarborough, where dogs and foot-traffic cause a constant disturbance to the adults’ incubation of their eggs.

Despite these odds, one chick was able to hatch. The little family then hiked a mile down the beach to a new site, perhaps to avoid the amount of dog and human activity, before finally settling south of the Pine Point public access. After such difficult beginnings, we were delighted to see the chick grow fat and fluffy as it foraged near Snowberry Park. The chick and adult survived the barrage of fireworks over the Independence Day holiday, something that can scare adults to the point of abandoning chicks. On July 13, we witnessed the young bird stretch his wings and make his first attempts to fly. This is always a hopeful sign, marking the beginning of its adult life. After watching this chick’s trials and triumphs, the news that we received of its death is especially heartbreaking.

Plover chicks are unable to fly for about one month after they hatch. Their main defense mechanism is to stand still and rely on their camouflage. The Pine Point chick had fledged, but was not yet an experienced flyer, which still made it a target for predators. While most dog owners would not consider their dogs to be predators, they are the most prevalent threat to plovers on Pine Point Beach. We are lucky to have only a small population of natural predators living in this particular area.

We work hard to ask dog owners to please leash their pets in areas where piping plovers are nesting and foraging. The nesting areas are marked with signs and symbolic fencing in the form of stake and twine. Being dog lovers ourselves, we understand that dogs need their exercise, but we also know that it is in a dog’s nature to want to chase anything that moves. It is the dog owner’s responsibility to leash their pet in areas where endangered piping plovers make their nests.

The incident on July 15 demonstrates that dogs are a very real threat to wildlife. We remind all beach-goers that piping plovers are an endangered species in Maine and protected by Endangered Species Act. The death of a bird can warrant a federal and state investigation. When situations such as this occur, we rely on witnesses to gather all available information so that we can prevent other violations in the future.

Here are some tips on how to be a good witness:

  • Description of People: Get a description of the person, such as height, hair color, gender and clothing
  • Date and Time: Record the date and time of day of the incident
  • Location and Distances: Identify the location of the incident and record landmarks
  • Description of Vehicles: Describe the vehicles involved, especially license plate numbers
  • Describe Event: Take notes on the details of the event, making sure to describe all witnessed events leading up to the occurrence
  • Call us: Piping Plover/Least Tern Project at 207-233-6811.

With factors such as habitat loss, over-population of predators and the harshness of New England weather, piping plovers are literally fighting for their lives. The best way for beach goers to help this species is to give the birds their space. We appreciate all the cooperation and support that we have received from beach communities.