Beginning early this morning and continuing throughout the day, our Little Chick has almost fledged. He does a tiny run, then sort of hops into the air, flapping his wings for short distances, several feet perhaps. We can’t quite yet call it flying, but he is getting very, very close.
The PiPlover volunteer monitors are amazing. I would like to again thank the following people, the Ryan-King family–Catherine, Cliff, Charles, and George–who divide their morning shift between all four family members, Caroline Haines, Hazel Hewitt, Paul Korn, Chris Martin, Diana Peck, Lucy Merrill-Hills, Cristina Hildebrand, Carol Ferrant, Jeanine Harris, Ruth Peron, Karen Shah, Annie Spike, and conservation agent Ken Whittaker.
We are pleading with folks to please, please keep your dogs off Good Harbor Beach. This morning I observed a dog owner purposefully and actively encourage his dog to chase Papa Plover. The owner had one of those retractable leashes and over and over again gave the dog more leash and encouragement to go after Papa. I stood between the dog, owner, and Papa with Little Chick on the other side in hopes of keeping him safe. As the owner and pooch came closer and closer, I tried to wave them away but they kept coming. Meanwhile Papa Plover was having a complete meltdown, employing every plover distraction trick imaginable. When I tried to speak with the man he cut me right off and barked that his was a SERVICE DOG and that service dogs are allowed. I again tried to explain but he was having none of it and said that if his dog caught the Plover, he wouldn’t hurt him.
Even if that were true, which it is not, I think the scofflaw dog owners are missing a huge point. To the PiPl, any four legged creature is a threat. It is very unlikely that the Piping Plover parent can ascertain the difference between a coyote, fox, or dog. I hope the following explanation helps people who don’t quite get it, better understand what all the fuss is about.
Your cute pooch is trotting down the beach. Even from a distance of several hundred feet away, your activity messages a ten alarm fire bell in the PiPl brain. The PiPl parent has no idea that your dog is the sweetest and most harmless dog that ever lived. Instead of staying nearby to where the chick is foraging or resting, the adult immediately goes on the defense, racing down the beach, flying after the dog/coyote/fox creature, alternating between dive bombing you and your dog and limping along the beach, pretending he has a broken wing.
Meanwhile, back where the chick is foraging, the crafty crows and ravenous gulls sense the golden opportunity they have been awaiting. Crows/Gulls don’t like the nasty defensive bites and pecks the adult Plovers inflict upon them when they get to close to the chicks, especially when tag teamed by both parents. But now there is no Plover parent anywhere within hundreds of feet of the baby because they are too busy defending the chick from the sweetest dog that ever lived. Time to swoop in and carry off the pleasingly plump chick, ripe for a wonderfully satisfying Gull/Crow breakfast.
Shortly after the dog owner/service dog departed, and just as Catherine was arriving to take over my shift, coming from the footbridge end was an elderly woman and her adorable husky puppy. They were were walking the beach at the high tide mark, exactly where the chick was feeding. Simultaneously, coming from the private end of the beach were a Mom and her son, and their beautiful golden retriever. After a good deal of explaining to both parties, they all turned and headed toward the direction from where they had come and away from the boardwalk #3 area.
Three dogs in the span of twenty minutes.
Please don’t write and tell us to call animal control at 6:00am. We have called and left messages, but their shifts do not begin until later in the morning. I think if we are serious about controlling the dog owner problem on Good Harbor Beach, possibly we could hire a part time person to ticket early in the morning and after the lifeguards leave in the late day. The tickets collected would easily pay the cost, and then some. It wouldn’t be long until the word got out.
I plan to find out if service dogs are allowed on beaches with shorebirds that are listed as a federally threatened or endangered species. If the dog was really a service dog, and service dogs are permitted, perhaps the owner could choose a different beach. And too, hopefully rentors in the area are letting their renters know that dogs are not allowed on the beach, leashed or unleashed, and at all hours of the day and night during the summer months.