We’ve all heard of the plight of the polar bear, and the reduction of wild tiger species from eight to six subspecies has received international attention. But what about endangered species on Long Island?
Migratory shore birds are among the Long Island’s most threatened species. For decades the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working alongside the Fire Island National Seashore to preserve and monitor threatened and endangered species. The piping plover is one such bird, and this small, migratory species mates along the Atlantic Coast from March to late July from Canada to Virginia. The plover is listed as federally threatened and state endangered, meaning their populations nationwide do not designate them as an endangered species, but statewide their populations are low enough to draw attention for protection and preservation efforts.
Other threatened migratory bird species include the common tern, the roseate tern and the least tern. All four of these species, including the plover nest on Fire Island. Efforts to protect them include fencing-in of nests to protect from both human traffic and natural predation by animals such as foxes and feral cats. Large sections of beaches have been cordoned off from visitor use, as well as four-wheel vehicle traffic.
In 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Field Office of New York worked in conjunction with a handful of public agencies and private organizations, including the Long Island Beach Buggy Association, The Nature Conservancy and the Suffolk County Department of Parks to restore the roseate tern habitat at Warners Island in Shinnecock Bay. Unfortunately the area was abandoned by the roseate tern population after erosion devastated their habitat area.
One of the largest causes of the endangerment of these species is loss of habitat, which is being widely consumed for recreational purposes. Large sections of beaches have been cordoned off from visitor use, as well as four-wheel vehicle traffic. But even those sections that are now protected from foot and vehicle traffic are polluted by washed up trash and litter. Have you ever wondered what happens to those balloons you release and watch fly up, up and away? Eventually they fall back down, and quite often land in our local waters, just waiting to be washed up on the shore.
While trespassing in the protected areas carries a hefty fine, the tide has a pesky habit of washing away entire sections of fence. Park patrons often venture into the area despite frequent reminders of the fines when frisbees and footballs are accidentally thrown inside, or when the tide rises and reduces available beach front.
One of the best ways that you can help the combined efforts to preserve and protect endangered migratory bird species on Long Island’s shores is to abide by the rules set forth by the park and remain out of the protected areas. Secondly, bring all your trash out of the park with you, and even pick up some of the trash near you that you didn’t leave behind. And finally, although it is both cute and tragic to let your children release helium balloons, keep in mind the effect it has on our waters and natural areas when they finally fall back down to Earth.
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