The nesting season for western snowy plovers returns to the Oregon coast this month, and 2013 promises to deliver another banner year for this threatened species as conservation actions that have led to a record number of breeding adults resume. Beachgoers have the opportunity to actively participate in this recovery success story by honoring access restrictions to a small portion of beaches along the Oregon coast.
Beginning March 15, signs and ropes will be used to inform the public of sensitive western snowy plover nesting areas, and to direct the public to non-sensitive areas where recreational activities are permitted. At these marked beach areas, beachgoers will still have access to the wet sand portion of the beach to enjoy passive recreational activities such as walking and horseback riding. All recreational activities within the dry sand areas, however, will be prohibited. On plover nesting beaches the following recreational activities will also be prohibited on the wet sand: operating a motorized or non- motorized vehicle or flying apparatus (e.g., flying a kite) and having a dog, leashed or unleashed. These access restrictions will protect the nests, eggs and chicks of breeding plovers, which are highly sensitive to repeated disturbance. Access restrictions will be in effect through September 15, but may be lifted early if there is no more nesting by July 15.
Dry and wet sand restrictions will be in effect at Sutton/Baker Beach, on the beach from Siltcoos Estuary to Tahkenitch Estuary and from just south of the Douglas/Coos County line south to Tenmile Estuary (northern Coos County), the North Spit of Coos Bay, Bandon Beach State Natural Area, and New River area beaches. These access restrictions affect approximately 48 miles along the 230 miles of sandy shore in Oregon. For more detailed information on specific locations of these areas, please consult the following webpage: http://www.oregon.gov/oprd/NATRES/docs/plover/DogFriendlyBeaches_web2013.pdf
“In 2012, monitors found 231 nesting plovers along the Oregon Coast – a significant increase from a population low of 28 nesting plovers as recently as 1992,” said Laura Todd of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “People who share the beach and honor the plover area access restrictions have played a huge role in getting us closer to recovering the western snowy plover.”
The Pacific coast population of the western snowy plover was listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened in 1993. It is also listed as threatened under state law. The primary threats to snowy plover survival are habitat degradation, urban development, introduced European beach grass and predators such as crows, ravens, foxes and skunks.
More information on plover habitat and beach restrictions can be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 541-867-4558; Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, 541-888-9324; U.S. Forest Service, 541-750-7000; or the Bureau of Land Management, 541-756-0100.