Driving on the beach and dunes, as you know, is intense and exciting. But it’s also highly regulated.
Our beaches are home to the snowy plover and California least tern, both of which are protected under the Endangered Species Act. One of the places used by these birds is the State Vehicular Recreation Area near Pismo.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the fenced off areas along the beach. The conservation folks are trying to protect the nests and eggs. Problem is, the experts don’t always find every nest. So you as a driver (and hiker, for that matter) must keep your eyes peeled for the nests.
The plover’s eggs are really difficult to spot in the sand. (See photo from CA State Parks www.parks.ca.gov .) More information and photos are provided in the brochure you receive when you enter the SVRA.
Drive slowly in areas where the nests are known to exist. Watch for birds flushing up ahead, as there may be a nest nearby. If you spot a nest, DO NOT touch or otherwise disturb the nest and eggs. You’re looking at a fine of up to $100,000 and six months in the slammer.
If you need to stop, stay as far as possible from a nest. Avoid tossing Frisbees or flying kites. To a plover these resemble hawks and other predators, which cause them to flee their nests. Keep your dogs leashed and by your side. Even from a distance they can scare nesting birds. Environmentalists are constantly looking for excuses to ban driving on the beach. Driving recklessly–and destroying nests in the process–just gives them more ammunition. I know you are a responsible driver; it’s the others that are a problem. But we’re all lumped together when something bad happens.
Let’s keep the beaches open for everyone. By exercising great care, driving on the beach can be a very enjoyable experience for you and allow wildlife to coexist in the area.