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Wardens look into death of endangered plover

6:07 PM, Jul 17, 2013   |    comments
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SCARBOROUGH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Game Wardens are still gathering information in their investigation of the mauling death of an endangered piping plover on Pine Point Beach. 

Wardens appealed for the public's help identifying a beach goer whose dog attacked and killed the plover chick Monday morning.

"We did have somebody come forward who was present during the incident and has been very cooperative," stated Sgt. Tim Spahr.  "We have been in contact with the owner of the dog that killed the piping plover.  We have cooperation from that person, they have been very forthright, so we are very happy for that outcome."

Biologists monitoring the nesting pair and their lone offspring were devastated by the news of the bird's death. 

"They were hanging in there and the bird had actually just fledged,  or learned how to fly," said Laura Minich Zitske, a biologist with Maine Audubon. 

"I have witnessed dogs chasing piping plovers before, and it is a terrible thing to watch," she said.  "When it is a chick that can barely fly, they are quite vulnerable."

She says it's not the dog's fault.

"I certainly can't blame a dog for being a dog, they are going to chase wildlife, and that is why it is really up to us as dog owners and as people to take care of our own pets," she explained.  "It just takes respect and for us to keep our distance."

Sgt. Spahr says the incident should serve as a reminder to beach goers to be aware that the endangered birds can be found on beaches in southern Maine from Georgetown to Ogunquit.

"We have signs and enclosures all up and down the beach, so people should be seeing these signs and should be knowing that when their dog is anywhere near them that they should be putting them on a leash, using extreme caution, whether there is a leash law or not," he said.

He says the dog owner could face some severe penalties, both at the state and federal levels, for violating the Endangered Species Act.  He says they could be charged with a misdemeanor and be required to pay a fine ranging from $500 to $1000 just for the state infraction.

He says investigators will be working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office to determine what penalty the dog owner may face.

Minich Zitske says there has been an outpouring of support for the birds in the community, with many people taking pride in having the birds raise their young on the beach year after year.  She hopes people will pay closer attention to their own actions and those of their pets moving forward.

"It may be an inconvenience for us, but it is their life that is on the line," she said.  "Sometimes I say that and people think I am being dramatic, but this literally, it's dead.  There is one chick that was going to fly, go to the Bahamas this winter, hopefully come back and have its own chicks here in Maine and that chick is dead so it is literally, life and death."



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