Audubon Proclaims “Year of the Dog”

dogblog--year of the dog

Ah, yes, the good folks at Maine Audubon are doing their best to make an alleged piping plover death at Pine Point Beach in July, 2013 into a disaster of Biblical proportions. In fact, the 2013 edition of their Piping Plover and Least Tern Newsletter is headlined: “The Year of the Dog: Maine Piping Plovers Overcome Challenges in 2013.”

To quote from the story: “The biggest news of the season is the unfortunate death of a plover fledgling caused by an unleashed dog on Pine Point Beach in Scarborough…” Lest you wonder where they stand on the issue of off-leash dogs on beaches, “Maine Audubon encourages towns to ban dogs on beaches throughout plover season, or at very least, require dogs to be leashed during the plover season [emphasis added].” You will recall that “plover season” runs from April 1 through September 15. So feel free to enjoy playing and swimming with your dog on the beach after the spring and summer are over.

It’s only in the last paragraph of the lead story that Maine Audubon finally gets around to sharing a bit of good news: “In sum, Piping Plovers successfully fledged 85 chicks on Maine’s beaches in 2013, a whopping 21 more fledglings than last year.” In fact, though Audubon doesn’t mention it, there were more chicks fledged in 2013 than in any year since 2002. A less cynical presentation of the year in review might have been headlined: “Plovers have best year since 2002,” rather than vilifying man’s best friend.

But Maine Audubon has a generous side as well. In the same vein as Councilor Donovan suggesting that owners take their dogs to Old Orchard Beach for off-leash time in the summer, Audubon’s Newsletter provides a short list of spots “where pets and their owners can enjoy the outdoors together.” Two of the locations are dog parks (don’t get me started on dog parks!) and three are Scarborough Land Trust properties. How magnanimous of Maine Audubon to offer the Land Trust’s properties! (My email to Scarborough Land Trust inquiring about their policy on off-leash dogs hasn’t been responded to.)

So, according to Maine Audubon, piping plovers overcame challenges in 2013. And in the 2012 Newsletter last year the headline was “Plovers persevere despite a challenging year.” Those little guys sure face a lot of challenges! Hey, guess what, Audubon? It’s been a challenging year for dogs and their owners in Scarborough, too!


dogblog--cartoonThanks to Donna Wilson for this spot-on summary of “best practices” in beach management.


Let’s also hang a few numbers on this discussion just for a bit of perspective. Here’s a graphic presentation of Scarborough’s dog and piping plover populations:

dogblog--dogs-ppl-chartAnd let’s not forget – there are human beings that go along with all those dogs. Rarely have so many been so restricted for so few.


Today’s Town Hall Riddle: When is an ordinance not an ordinance?

I don’t believe I was the only one scratching my head when last week’s Council agenda was released and the proposed new animal control ordinance appeared broken up into a resolution and an ordinance. Although I am not a student of parliamentary procedure, I found the explanation of why the Council was taking this novel approach completely unconvincing. Something about ordinances not lending themselves to graphics or maps, was it? Huh? Where do the Town’s Charter or the Council’s rules say that an ordinance must be graphics-free? (I always thought resolutions were for ceremonial and non-binding sort of things. You know, like making April “Piping Plover Month” in Scarborough.)

Far be it from me to question the motives of the esteemed Council, but one can only imagine why this resolution/ordinance format was employed. As if the proposed Sanctuary Beach solution isn’t already complicated enough. And what mischief could possibly be created by a Town official having carte blanche authority to declare a “plover emergency”?

I don’t know the answers to the following questions, but wish I did:

1. Has the Town ever used this linked resolution/ordinance format before?
2. Has any Maine municipality ever used this approach?
3. Did the Town attorney review this approach for possible drawbacks?
4. What did she say about it?
5. When one goes to look up the new regulations, where do they go? (The ordinance piece will be with the other ordinances on the Town website. But where will the resolution piece be found? In the minutes of the meeting? Seems like a bizarre way to research a regulation.)

And speaking of piping plover emergencies, here’s one…

dogblog--plover emergency

That’s probably not the sort of emergency the Council is envisioning. They’re probably thinking of something more along the lines of a chick “going missing.” Sort of an Amber Alert for the little guys.

It’s very easy to imagine a scenario where, say, a chick from a nest at the end of Higgins Beach near the Spurwink River doesn’t show up for Audubon’s roll call some morning. “Oh, oh!!! Missing chick!!! Call the Town Piping Plover Coordinator! Level 5 Piping Plover Emergency! Close the rest of Higgins Beach for a few days while we organize a search party. No dogs until further notice. Humans only with a pass signed by a beach-resident Councilor.”

Of course the little guy’s disappearance was probably a result of him having become a tasty (but not very filling) snack for a fox, skunk or gull, but what the heck. At least it will get the dogs off the beach. And that, it seems, is all that really matters.

dogblog--poetry contestPoetry contest deadline extended until April 27!

A final thought on Maine Audubon and dogs…

I confess to being a bit surprised by the sharpness of Maine Audubon’s public communications singling out of dogs as a major threat to piping plover success. Maine Audubon knows as well as you and I that dogs are near the bottom of the plovers’ threat list. Yet they portray dogs as a major villain to the species.

At some point – and perhaps we’re very close now – Maine Audubon members who are also dog owners may think twice about renewing their membership in an organization that is so clearly anti-dog. Considering that there are around 200,000 dog-owning households in the state, Maine Audubon’s stridence on the dogs/plovers issue could well have a negative impact on their membership level.

dogblog--public hearing[Editor’s note: You can’t imagine how much restraint it took not to put a different image here. But as you know, “dignified” is our watchword here at]

Until next time, peace.

12 thoughts on “Audubon Proclaims “Year of the Dog”

  1. catherine207

    Thank you! I’ve had many sleepless nights lately wondering, “Just what is a ‘plover emergency’?” I can rest easy now that the mystery has finally been solved! 🙂

  2. Deborah Patch

    Yeah we can walk where we can get Ticks and Lyme Disease. Oh and did anyone think that dogs on the beach with their owners may keep the foxes etc away. Remove the dogs they will have a worse problem.
    Dogs, Protectors of Plovers. Just a new slogan. Dogs on beaches with their owners early in the morning is a good thing.

    1. tthannah Post author

      Indeed there is anecdotal evidence that piping plovers can coexist quite nicely in the midst of a high level of human activity. And it certainly makes abundant sense that off-leash dogs can provide an effective deterrent to some of the plovers REAL predators. As I’ve noted in the past, good luck getting funding for that study from the bird protection establishment.

  3. Plarou

    Well written and concise…TT hits another home run. Next graph you should have is one showing the average property tax paid by homeowners in Scarborough compared to the average property tax paid by the plovers. Thank you again for the great facts and an even greater laugh.

    1. tthannah Post author

      Thanks for the kind words. And for all that you do to counter the menace of an out-of-control government agency. (Assisted, unfortunately, by a Town Council that seems to value the supposed opinions of non-voters over the clearly expressed will of the voters.)

  4. K-9 Unit to be replaced

    K-9 Unit to be replaced by caged Piping Plovers
    Dalmatians to be replaced on fire trucks by Piping Plovers
    Dalmatian to be removed from the Budweiser wagon
    Did not Americans bring back dog from the Sochi Olympics?
    How many K-9 will be replaced by a Piping Plovers to find missing children, how many drug sniffing dogs will lose their job?
    Soon we will see a bird cage in the back of ever police cruiser, to replace the K – 9.
    How many Piping Plover are seeing eye Piping Plover?
    How many Piping Plovers are service Piping Plovers?
    How many Piping Plovers have worked all day long trying to find survivors of an event (disaster) either man made or natural?
    How many Piping Plovers have saved a soldiers life and given their own life?

    Next time a child goes missing call a Piping Plovers, not my dog.

    1. Slippery Slope

      TAX BASE
      Just the rumor of shutting down Scarborough Beaches could destroy the local economy, and the tax base.
      When the town starts shutting down the beaches to the public, it will not be long before the property values will decline on the beaches forcing the tax burden to shift from the beach areas to other home owners in Scarborough. In addition; the state government will receive less money from the rental properties and meals tax. Perhaps the state can do away with Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to save money.
      Think of going to the beach and looking at it and you cannot walk on it, fish near it, swim in it, and surf on the waves, would you rent, would you buy? The one thing you may have is great memories of what it used to be like before the Town Council of Scarborough pass ordinances and resolution… Hope you have lots of pictures.

    1. tthannah Post author

      You’re welcome. Thanks for reading it and letting others know about it. The more folks we can inform, the better our chances of success.

  5. Matt

    Does anyone even know the real story of what happened? I was told from a very reliable municipal government employee that, though the dog was unleashed, it was only 4 feet from the owner (The length of most leashes… less even) and the bird flew down in front of the dog. A leash would not have helped in any way.

    1. tthannah Post author

      Thanks for your comment. I have heard a very similar story. Which makes the stonewalling by the USFWS all the more troubling. One would think that getting all the facts out on the table would be the FIRST STEP in having a meaningful discussion of the issue (or, whether there even really IS an issue). But USFWS has chosen the path that invites speculation, mistrust and animosity. Very unfortunate that “the government” has chosen to treat its citizens this way.

      [And just to take the speculation one step further… At this point we don’t even know for a fact that the alleged dead bird (in contrast to Monty Python’s decidedly dead parrot) was, in fact, a piping plover. Remember, it was allegedly a chick. So how fully were its markings developed to allow differentiation from the chicks of other species? Until the public gets to see ALL THE FACTS on this incident, I hope we all will refer to this as “the alleged take of a piping plover.”]


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