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Contact: Paula Valentine, 631-687-4759
Spring arrived early on Fire Island this year. On Friday, March 9, 2012, a Fire Island National Seashore park ranger reported the first sighting of a piping plover on the beach near Watch Hill. These tiny migratory shorebirds usually arrive along the south shore of Long Island by mid-March. By late March 2012, five nesting pairs had already been observed along the beach in front of the Fire Island Wilderness and Watch Hill, within Fire Island National Seashore. Because these beach dependent birds are listed as federally threatened and New York State endangered species, they are afforded extra protection on Fire Island and other Long Island beaches.
During the breeding and nesting season, pets have been restricted from designated portions of Fire Island National Seashore's ocean beach from March 15 through Labor Day. This year those restrictions are expanded to all federally-owned portions of the ocean beach on Fire Island. Pets are also not permitted in Robert Moses State Park or portions of Smith Point County Park. Several Fire Island communities also prohibit dogs and other pets on the beach.
Pets may still be brought to Fire Island, and are permitted on private boats in the marinas and at the Watch Hill Campground, and they may be walked on park trails and along the bay-side beach. By law, where dogs and other pets are allowed in National Park Service areas, they must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet in length.
Symbolic fencing is installed at historically productive nesting areas for the piping plover on Fire Island, including in front of some of the Fire Island communities. Fencing is reduced if no plovers nest in the area, but remains in place near the duneline where the seabeach amaranth plant (another federally threatened species) may sprout.
"We appreciate that most beach users are respectful of these temporary closures," said Superintendent Chris Soller, "and are supportive of our efforts to protect these endangered plants and animals."
As an added bonus, symbolic fencing installed to protect plover nesting sites also protects the toe of the dune from trampling by people. This allows the American beach grass to grow and help stabilize the protective dune.
For more information, contact park headquarters at 631-687-4750.