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Fragile Snowy Plover Nesting Brings Restrictions to Handful of Oregon Coast Locales

Published 3/31/24 at 7:55 p.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Reedsport, Oregon) – Restrictions are in place for a handful of places on the Oregon coast where the fragile snowy plover population is nesting. Earlier in March the rules went into effect, ending on September 15 and only limiting a few activities.

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Oregon State Parks and Recreation (OPRD) and Siuslaw National Forest (SNF) want to remind visitors that some areas will require you to walk on hard-packed, wet sand and keep dogs out of the area. Other restricted activities include driving vehicles, bike riding, camping, flying kites or drones, and burning wood.

Even if a dog is on a leash, you cannot go into one of these areas because the nesting birds may get completely spooked and abandon their young, and there's a greater danger nests will get stepped on.

Altogether, these areas with extra rules comprise a mere 40 miles out of Oregon's 362 miles of beaches. There are still hundreds of miles of beaches for visitors to engage with.

“Sensitive plover nesting areas will be roped off or identified by signs with rules and limits, such as staying on the wet sand, to help protect the small shorebirds and their exposed nests during this crucial period,” OPRD said.

Oregon coast officials said be sure to respect signs and barriers to protect nesting habitat.

Restricted beaches on the north Oregon coast include only the spits of the area, but they are mostly all quite remote. These include Clatsop Spit, Nehalem Spit, Bayocean Spit, Netarts Spit and South Sand Lake Spit near Pacific City.

There are none in Lincoln County.

Near Florence, there's the Sutton / Baker Beach area.

On the Oregon National Dunes Recreation Area there are several, including Tenmile, Siltcoos / Dunes / Tahkenitch and the Tahkenitch South areas. There are also nesting locales along the North Jetty of the Umpqua River near Reedsport, and the Coos Bay North Spit. Farther south, restrictions are in place at Bandon, the New River area, Elk River and Euchre River in Curry County.

A good deal of the areas with temporary rules are along the Oregon National Dunes Recreation on the south coast.

“Seasonal recreation restrictions have helped protect these small birds that nest on open sand,” OPRD said. “Nests, and especially chicks, are well-camouflaged. During the nesting season, human disturbances can flush adult plovers away from their nests as they attempt to defend their young. Left alone too long, or too often, eggs or chicks can die from exposure, predators or people.”

Cindy Burns, wildlife biologist for the SNF said officials have been making great strides reversing the decline of this adorable little birds.

Also see Oregon Coast Singing Sands to Booming, Squeaking Sands: How to and Where to Find They're extremely rare and only at the National Dunes Rec Area

“But it takes all of us, so we urge people to do their part to understand nesting season rules and to share the beach this spring and summer,” she said.

Western snowy plovers have been listed as threatened species since 1993: back then they only found 45 breeding adults. Finally, in 2023 they discovered 433 during breeding season – a remarkable recovery. Yet it's not done yet.


More information on the snowy plover, including detailed maps of nesting sites, can be found on the Oregon State Parks website (oregon.gov/plovers) and on the Siuslaw National Forest website (https://t.ly/AKPAN). Visitors to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area can review Off-highway Vehicle (OHV) maps.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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