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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Thank you, idiot summer people

By ecoRI News staff

Piping plover chicks hatch on Chicago beach
US Fish and Wildlife Service photo
An endangered piping plover chick was illegally removed from a Westerly, R.I., beach last week by vacationers who brought it home with them to Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The chick was eventually brought to a Massachusetts wildlife rehabilitator when it began to show signs of poor health. Given its rapidly declining condition, it was transferred to Tufts Wildlife Clinic and then to Cape Wildlife in Barnstable. Despite the best efforts of veterinarians, the chick had become too weak from the ordeal and died.

The Fish & Wildlife Service asks that people don’t disturb or interfere with plovers or other wildlife. While wild animals may appear to be “orphaned,” they usually aren’t; parents are often waiting nearby for humans to leave. Plover chicks are able to run and feed themselves, and even if they appear to be alone, their parents are usually in the vicinity.

“With such a small population, each individual bird makes a difference,” said Maureen Durkin, the agency’s plover coordinator for Rhode Island. “By sharing our beaches and leaving the birds undisturbed, we give plovers the best chance to successfully raise chicks each year.”

About 85 pairs of piping plovers breed in the Ocean State under the close watch of several agencies, including the Fish & Wildlife Service and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

The piping plover is a protected species, although its population on the East Coast is slowly making a comeback. The number of piping plover breeding pairs has increased from 1,879 in 2018 to 2,008 pairs last summer.

Baby songbirds, seal pups, and fawns are also at risk from being removed from the wild unnecessarily by people mistaking them for orphans. If a young animal is encountered alone in the wild, the best course of action is typically to leave the area. In most cases the parents will return without human intervention, according to Fish & Wildlife Service officials.

In rare instances where a young animal is truly in need of assistance, people should contact the appropriate state or federal wildlife agency, whose staff is trained to handle these types of situations. 

Members of the public should never handle wildlife or remove it from the area before contacting authorities. 

In addition to the likelihood of causing more harm than good, regardless of intentions, it’s illegal to possess or handle most wildlife, especially threatened and endangered species such as piping plovers.