OLD ORCHARD BEACH — A large number of piping plover chicks have hatched on the town’s beaches this year.

Town Manager Larry Mead said at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting that 19 piping plovers have hatched in Old Orchard Beach this year, which is the largest number of plover chicks hatched in any community in the state.

Piping plovers are small, sandy-colored shore birds that are on the Maine endangered species list and are protected under federal law as a threatened species.

“Like many people, they seem to like our resort community and come and stay for a while,” said Mead.

Mead said the town has been working with Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Maine Audubon to monitor the piping plover population on the beach.

Mead said the large number of the tiny birds has created challenges with beach trash removal, particularly at the ends of the beach ”“ in Ocean Park and the area between Walnut Avenue and Scarborough ”“ where the plovers tend to nest.

“There are significant financial penalties in place by the federal government if any harm comes to a plover,” said Mead.

Mead said restrictions have been in place on trash removal procedures, as the truck typically driven on the beach during trash removal leaves tire tracks the tiny birds like to sit in, leaving them at risk when the truck returns.

Mead said now that plover chicks in Ocean Park have relocated to the other side of Goosefare Brook, restrictions on trash removal in some areas have been lifted, and he’s hoping the town will be able to resume full trash removal operations by early next week.

Laura Minich Zitske, director of Maine Audubon’s Piping Plover and Least Tern Project, said that there is estimated to be 62 nesting pairs of plovers on Maine beaches this year. She said there are 93 piping plover chicks in the state who are mature enough to fly, and 25 more chicks on Maine beaches as well as two plover nests yet to hatch.

Old Orchard Beach has had a beach management agreement since 2010 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to protect piping plovers.

The agreement sets guidelines from April 15 to Aug. 31, only when nesting activity is occurring.

During these periods, the agreement discourages recreational activities within 100 feet of fenced-off plover nesting areas. Dogs are not allowed within 100 feet of plover nesting areas.

Under town ordinance, dogs are not allowed on the beach between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]

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