• The Point Reyes Beach as viewed from the Point Reyes Headlands

    Point Reyes

    National Seashore California

Snowy Plover Critical Habitat Protection Measures at Point Reyes National Seashore for 2001

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Date: March 14, 2001
Contact: John Dell'Osso, 415-464-5135
Contact: Dr. Sarah Allen, 415-464-5187

The federally-listed threatened snowy plover nesting season is underway. Last year, the plovers at Point Reyes National Seashore had a poor nesting season due to intense weather, human disturbance, and predation by a falcon. Efforts to protect the plovers include the construction of “exclosures” around their inconspicuous nests immediately after an egg is laid. To assure this success occurs this nesting season, the annual closure of a small stretch of the Point Reyes Beach to dogs will be initiated again.

“This is the most critical time of the nesting season for these birds to have a chance of surviving.” stated Superintendent Don Neubacher. He added, “We must do what we can to help this species survive over the long-term and this is one step we can take to reach this goal. We ask everyone’s help in this effort. We appreciate everyone’s support for last year’s closure.”

Closing a small stretch of the 12-mile beach to dogs is important to minimize disturbance during this critical time. The stretch of beach starting at ¼ mile north of the North Beach parking lot and continuing to a point ¼ mile south of Kehoe Beach, will be closed to dogs from Friday, March 16th until Monday, September 10th, 2001. The closures encompasses less than three miles of this 12-mile beach area. Other popular beaches such as Limantour and Kehoe Beaches remain open as alternatives for park visitors with dogs.

Exclosures are wire fencing with twine wrapped around the top, erected at the nest site. The plovers have easy access in and out of the wire mesh but the eggs are protected from their number one predator, ravens, as well as other predators.

Currently, only 2,000 western snowy plovers occur in the West. Most of the suitable habitat for these birds has been lost to development and recreational activities. As recently as 1987, over 70 nests were known to occur along some of Point Reyes' beaches. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the snowy plover population had been on the decline since the 1970s, and listed the species as threatened in 1993. In 1995, only five chicks hatched from eggs at Point Reyes National Seashore, yet 20 nests were observed with 2-3 eggs in each of the nests. With the additional protection of the exclosures during the 1999 breeding season, 24 chicks fledged! However, due to the reasons listed above, only 14 chicks fledged from their nests in the 2000 breeding season.

-NPS-

Did You Know?

Harbor Seal Pup, © Sue Van Der Wal

Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) are present in the waters of Point Reyes year round. Every spring, approximately 7,000 harbor seals, or 20% of the mainland California breeding population, haul out on the beaches of Point Reyes. Look for them in the esteros and in Tomales Bay and Bolinas Lagoon. More...