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Snowy Plover Restrictions Now on Some Oregon Coast Beaches

Published 03/14/22 at 7:15 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Snowy Plover Restrictions Now on Some Oregon Coast Beaches

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(Oregon Coast) – Several beaches on the Oregon coast will go under some minor restrictions starting March 15, as it is now once again snow plover nesting season in the dry sand areas close to dunes and embankments. Beachgoers will soon see ropes that identify sensitive areas for the bird that is a species in recovery, with restrictions going until September 15. (Photos courtesy OPRD)

Snowy plover beaches are few and far between and often do not have much traffic in the first place, but the restrictions are there to let the threatened species continue nesting in peace. These particular spots are open to foot and equestrian traffic on the wet, packed sand, but other forms of recreation will not be allowed, such as walking your dog (even on leashes), driving any kind of vehicle, riding a bike, camping, flying kites or wood burning. Even drones will be prohibited.

“We appreciate everyone's help, it's making a difference,” said Cindy Burns, Siuslaw National Forest wildlife biologist. “Research shows us that humans play an important role in the long-term success of the western snowy plover; if we can minimize our impact, this species has a greater chance of thriving.”

Among the restricted beaches will be rather remote spots such as the Clatsop Spit, Nehalem Spit, Bayocean Spit, Netarts Spit and South Sand Lake Spit on the north Oregon coast. No such restricted beaches are found on the central Oregon coast. On the south coast, restricted beaches are again usually quite deserted, including Sutton / Baker Beach, Siltcoos / Tahkenitch, Tahkenitch South, North Jetty Umpqua River, Tenmile Creek area, the Coos Bay North Spit, and parts of Bandon.

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) said these small birds nest along the open sand areas, and their nests and especially the young chicks blend in well with the background. Disturbances by humans can cause the parents to run away from nests, leaving the young exposed and untended to. They die easily this way, OPRD said.

These are always small stretches of beaches where restrictions are implemented, altogether comprising about 40 miles worth of Oregon's entire 362 miles of shoreline. Areas are limited to only sections where the plovers are actually nesting or could potentially nest.

“Visitors will have access to hundreds of miles of beaches that have no seasonal restrictions,” said Laurel Hillmann, Ocean Shore Specialist for OPRD. “By planning your trip, you can enjoy the coast and help keep these special birds safe.”

Detailed maps can be found on the Oregon State Parks website (oregon.gov/plovers) and on the Siuslaw National Forest website (go.usa.gov/xEh2h). Visitors to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area can review maps here to identify unrestricted recreation areas and information on riding motor vehicles on the sand.

New plover activity


The increase in plover numbers in recent years has resulted in nesting occurring in new or historical nesting sites, including at Sand Lake Recreation Area. Like last year, visitors to Sand Lake may see roped off areas near the lake’s inlet to protect active nests, and may encounter plovers on the beach. Beachgoers are encouraged to protect these birds by limiting recreation activities to wet sand areas near the water's edge, staying out of roped off nesting areas, packing all trash out, and keeping dogs on leash.

Background on plover protections

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed western snowy plovers as a threatened species in 1993, when officials counted only 55 breeding adults. The numbers of breeding adults have steadily increased since then, from 107 in 2003 to 604 in 2021.

Several land managers oversee beach activity for plover protection, primarily the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD).

Habitat loss from invasive plants — as well as human disturbances, including litter and discarded food scraps that attract predators — have contributed to the birds’ decline. The Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative, saveoregondunes.org, is working with land managers to develop and implement a restoration strategy as well as to raise public awareness about the need to restore the dunes ecosystem for snowy plover, rare plants and animals, and the unique recreation opportunities offered here.

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