New Dog Restrictions Bomb on Scarborough Beaches

Plovers Rebound!  Dogs Exonerated!

dogblog--snoopy-woodstockOK, folks, the 2014 piping plover results are in. I know you’ve been waiting on the edges of your seats! Turns out it was a decent year overall for piping plovers all along the Maine coast. In fact, as I’m sure the Audubon headline will tout, the most chicks fledged since 2001! Huzzah.

It’s only when you look at the detail of plover activity and productivity on local beaches that some very startling results appear. Audubon, USFWS and MDIFW hope you don’t bother to look that closely at the numbers. But, smart consumer of plover information that you are, you will now look at what the bird extremists don’t want you to know…

Here are a few of the observations about the local experience that jump out at us:

• Scarborough State Park Beach – a State-owned facility with a total NO DOGS policy – appears to have had the absolute worst results of any beach in the State… five plover pairs making six nest attempts and not producing a single fledged chick! This has to be a record for bad performance.  That’s right, no dogs and horrible plover performance.

• Old Orchard Beach – which is often held out as the bad boy of bird protection because of its welcoming policy toward canines and their owners – was slightly above the overall State-wide productivity result with 2.0 fledged chicks per adult pair compared to the State average of 1.94. (Interestingly, a footnote on the Audubon report states that some of the chicks hatched at Pine Point were “largely reared on OOB.” Apparently the plover parents weren’t all that concerned about the OOB dogs.)  OOB summary — dog friendly, good plover results.

• As predicted by yours truly (no humility here!), there was no nesting activity on Ferry/Western Beach. Most of Ferry/Western is, of course, dog-free… even well after the plover season ends. Whether the lack of plover activity was a result of Phase 1 of the “beach renourishment” project, or just because it’s crappy plover habitat to begin with, only the plovers know. And we all know how reticent they are. On the plus side, we’ve heard about some excellent rounds being played this summer at the Prouts Neck Country Club…

Armed with the above observations, a budding eco-biologist might conclude that piping plover success is inversely proportional to the degree of restrictions on dogs. That is, the fewer restrictions on dog activity on the beach, the better the piping plover population does. Ahh, Science!  Maybe I’ll write this up for the Audubon Monthly.

We hope you will take a few minutes to review the data yourself. Click here for the Audubon spreadsheet  — unless they decide to pull it because it’s not telling the right story.  When you look at the data, it’s very clear that dog restrictions have nothing to do with piping plover success.

Bottom line: Needless, perhaps even counterproductive, dog restrictions.  Lots of unhappy people.  Piping plover results that are unrelated to dog restrictions.

Remember the Year of the Dog?

Yes, of course you do! Maine Audubon proclaimed 2013 as “the Year of the Dog” to gin up anti-dog sentiment after the (still!) alleged take of a piping plover by a dog at Pine Point in July, 2013. Despite all the data that clearly demonstrate that dogs barely register on the list of plover predators, Audubon made dogs public enemy number one of “the little guys.” It was not one of Audubon’s finest hours.


So, what about 2014? We only heard about two incidents involving the demise of little guys this season. One at the hands (beak?) of a seagull. And one being pulverized by an OOB beach patrol ATV. (The report on this incident is probably locked in the same drawer down in USFWS’s Hadley, MA office as the report on the alleged 2013 Pine Point “take.”) In any event, we will be waiting patiently for Audubon’s spin on 2014. My guess is that “Year of the Killer Gull” and “Lethal Weapon IV – ATV of Death“ will not be the headlines.

Piping Plover Monitor Program


We hear that one of the Higgins Beach plover monitors is a shoo-in for this year’s “Monitor of the Year Award.” Her grace and finesse in dealing with the public was legendary. The final results won’t be announced until the annual Association meeting to be held in mid-September at a Harmons Island estate.  We’ll let you know when it’s official.


 Until next time, enjoy the beach with your dog(s)!  And be neighborly!

9 thoughts on “New Dog Restrictions Bomb on Scarborough Beaches

  1. suzanmorris

    Hmm, seems to coincide with the postulation of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach DOG. “No current studies have found dogs to be predators of the snowy plover. It is well established, however, that ravens and gulls are predators of the snowy plover population. It has been postulated by some that the presence of dogs at the beach actually aids the plover, as dogs seem to interfere with the predation of plovers by the ravens and gulls. It has been speculated that dogs protect plovers by occasionally chasing and/or distracting ravens and gulls. Maybe the fact that dog walkers help to clean up trash on the beaches minimizes the attraction of predators such as ravens and gulls. It is unfortunate this aspect of the ecosystem at the beach was never considered or studied when decisions were made regarding dogs and plovers on our beaches.”

    1. tthannah Post author

      Thanks for this info! Makes complete sense to me. And it reminds me: Yesterday around 7am, I saw a fox stroll across the road right at the entrance to the Ferry Beach parking lot. He seemed quite relaxed and at home. As we know, foxes are REAL plover predators — enjoying both plover eggs and plover steaks. I wonder if Brother Fox would be quite so complacent if there were dogs present on Western/Ferry Beaches. Seems to me that the presence of dogs would tend to interfere with fox predation of plovers. But, hey, the scientists know best. (Or at least want you to think they do.)

      Thanks again.

      1. tthannah Post author

        I checked out Ocean Beach DOG. Other than being on the West coast and having a different Federal agency doing the dirty work, there are amazing similarities to our situation. I put the link to them on the LINKS page. Well worth a visit! Thanks, Suzan, for the heads up!

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