Authorities are seeking information on who was responsible for vandalizing two piping plovers nests at Gateway National Recreation Area, where eggs inside two nests were stolen earlier this month.
Piping plovers are a threatened species along the Atlantic Coast under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and in recent years have been the focus of high-profile efforts at Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras national seashores to protect them from predators and human impacts.
At Gateway NRA in the greater New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, officials say someone broke through the exclosures around two nest sites at Breezy Point on the night of July 3.
"A single set of human tracks approached the exclosures and proceeded east. Park staff discovered the vandalism while monitoring active nests the following morning," park officials said in a release.
Investigating the crime were both the U.S. Park Police and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"At Gateway and for all of us who love animals, protecting endangered and threatened wildlife is one of our core responsibilities," said Superintendent Linda Canzanelli. "Killing or harassing adult plovers or their chicks, and removing or crushing their eggs is a crime against this mild-mannered species, which needs our protection to avoid extinction. It is cowardly and wrong. And it is a felony. Help us by educating your family and friends so we can work together to protect this wonderful bird."
Along with its ESA listing as a threatened species, plovers along the Atlantic Coast are considered endangered under New York State Environmental Conservation Law. The penalty for an individual who is convicted of a first offense felony violation of the ESA is a $5,000 fine and/or five-year imprisonment.
Piping plovers receive additional protected status under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Individuals convicted of violating the MBTA can be fined $5,000 to $250,000 or may serve up to two years in prison.
Those with information about this crime may contact U.S. Park Police at 718-338-3988.