Dogs and kite-flying are being restricted at some Cape Cod National Seashore beaches due to the annual arrival of piping plovers in search of breeding grounds.
The plovers are a threatened species along the Atlantic Coast under both the federal and Massachusetts Endangered Species Acts, according to the Park Service. As a result, seashore officials take precautions to see that the birds aren't disturbed during their nesting season.
Some piping plovers already have arrived at Cape Cod and established their territories for nesting, according to seashore officials. Unfortunately, those nesting grounds typically are on beaches where the eggs, and eventually flightless chicks, are vulnerable to predators, storm tides, and seashore visitors, their pets, and even their kites.
They are particularly sensitive to the presence of dogs. They perceive dogs as predators and are more readily disturbed when a dog is approaching than when only people are approaching. An even greater threat occurs when dogs are off-leash. Most loose dogs naturally chase any movement on the beach including adult plovers and the flightless chicks, which can be killed in the process.
Kites also disturb the nesting and feeding behaviors of endangered shorebirds. Kites are perceived as large predators flying over the birds. This may scare the incubating parent off the nest, exposing the eggs to predators, hot or cold temperatures, cause nest abandonment, or disrupt feeding of the adult birds and their chicks.
As a result, beginning April 1 and running through September, to protect nesting plovers, least terns, American oystercatcher, and other nesting shorebirds no pets or kite flying will be permitted on Coast Guard Beach south of the former Coast Guard Station in Eastham, and at Jeremy Point in Wellfleet, seashore officials have announced.
Also effective April 1, kite-surfing/boarding is prohibited on Cape Cod Bay-side beaches and Cape Cod Bay waters within the national seashore until the last chicks in the area have fledged, they added. Additional sections of the seashore’s ocean and bayside beaches that support nesting shorebirds may also be temporally closed to pets and kites.
In areas where dogs are permitted within the national seashore, they must be leashed, officials say.