July 7, 2020

MDIFW NEWS: Maine Warden Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Seeking information Concerning Vandalism Of Endangered Bird Nesting Site

AUGUSTA, Maine -- The Maine Warden Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating two separate cases of vandalism on piping plover nesting enclosures on beaches in Saco and Old Orchard Beach. Piping plovers are listed as endangered in Maine, and listed as threatened nationally by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The first incident took place near Goosefare Brook in Saco, where fencing nesting enclosure was vandalized in the middle of the night on July 4th. The enclosure fencing was destroyed and the adults and chicks abandoned their nest, and one of the chicks was found dead. The second incident took place in Old Orchard Beach in the middle of the night on July 4th as well. A nesting enclosure that housed a nesting pair of adult chicks was purposely dismantled, and a nest with three eggs was temporarily abandoned.

Anyone with any information regarding these acts should please call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-ALERT-US or 207-624-7076. The harassment or death of an endangered or threatened species can lead to state and federal charges resulting fines of up to $25,000 and six months imprisonment.

Many of Maine's beaches are their busiest this time of year. Follow local rules and signage for beach access, and abide by government mandates and recommended practices for hygiene and maintaining distance from others. Remember, shorebirds need the beach too.

By following some specific steps, we can enjoy the beach and share it with piping plovers and their chicks: Please walk close to the water on the lower beach, so travel-weary birds can rest on the upper beach. Birdwatching can be a great way to pass the time and maintain wellness. Keep your distance so the birds feel safe. If pets are permitted on beaches, keep them leashed and away from birds. Remove trash and food scraps, which attract animals that might eat piping plovers and their eggs. Do not feed animals on or near the beach. Keep your cats indoors. Follow all other guidance on signs, and respect all areas fenced or posted for protection of wildlife. Your actions can benefit sea turtles, terns, American oystercatchers, and black skimmers, among other animals.

Piping plovers fly to Maine every spring in search of safe shores to raise families, feed, and rest. Thanks to nearly 35 years of conservation by many partners and the cooperation of beachgoers, Maine's population has grown from 15 breeding pairs in 1986 to to 89 pairs in 2019. The species has benefited from the widespread implementation of management practices including installing symbolic fencing around nests, leashing dogs, posting caution signs, reducing predation, and asking beachgoers to modify their activities near birds and fenced areas.