I had a disturbing experience at Plum Beach this morning while performing the IWASH shorebird survey (for NYC Audubon) with [XXX]. He informed me before I headed all the way out to the tip that there was someone with his doberman running free out on the flats. It sounded like a guy who I had several run-ins with at Plum last fall, and despite the fact that I informed over and over again that his dog was not allowed to be off the leash there he had not altered his behavior.
While on my way out to the tip (just before dead Low Tide) I saw someone I didn't recognize with two dogs. He proceeded to walk directly at the shorebirds on the flats while one of his dogs chased the flocks of shorebirds back and forth up and down the beach (I took photos and videos of this happening of course). I phoned the National Park Service Police using the number [YYY] sent us last week, and I reported the off leash dogs running around on the mudflats creating an unreasonable disturbance on the migratory shorebirds. The man on the other end said he'd send someone over.
I walked out to the tip and lo and behold the guy [XXX] was talking about with the doberman was indeed the same one with whom I'd had multiple run-ins. After a short time I recieved a call from the NPS officer who had just arrived at Plum. I gave him directions to where the dogs were (left out of the parking lot, all the way to the end of the sandspit) and told him that's where I was. As we looked back down the beach towards the parking lot four people came into view, but rather than people from the NPS it was people with 5 large dogs headed our way. All of a sudden they were looking back over their shoulders towards the parking lot and putting their dogs on leashes. I figured the officer(s) had overtaken them and were correcting the situation, but I was hoping he didn't think these people were the ones I was referring to in my complaint. Apparently they did though, because I saw neither hide nor hair of any NPS employees for the rest of my stay there.
After these newly arrived dogwalkers went about another 100 feet towards us they unleashed all their dogs and were having a loud conversation the entire way down the beach. When they got nearer to us (while their dogs were periodically running out of control over the mudflats) we overheard their conversation which was to this effect: The Ranger told them to "get out of sight" before unleashing their dogs so that noone would have a problem with it.
As much as I tried to find a rational explanation for what I was hearing (assuming maybe there was a context I missed), the more they talked the worse it sounded. "(My dog) was squatting taking a dump right out in front of us in the water when the Ranger came." "No one can see us now see, no one around to complain." "Ah here's a good spot for them to run around on" (referring to the #1 shorebird feeding area at the tip of the mudflats). These were some of the almost verbatim excerpts from their conversation as they for the most part ignored our presence.
[XXX] then called the NPS office and got a woman who said "we just had someone out there," and after he explained that: 1) they hadn't actually come out all the way, 2) the people who had leashed their dogs promptly unleashed them, and 3) they weren't who the original complaint was about, she said she would send someone out there (he didn't mention anything about the ranger essentially giving them the OK to run their dogs on the flats). Of course we didn't see any additional enforcement in the time we were there, so I don't know if she actually did send someone over, or if they actually responded to the call if she did.
What can we do in the face of such a blatant sidestepping of responsibility from the people who are supposed to be enforcing the Law? Any suggestions on how to handle this? The dog situation at Plum is out of control, especially on weekends (I counted 13 total dogs on/near the flats between 8:00-10:00 AM this morning).
Of course the shorebirds (in excess of 1,000 including 14 species) had real trouble staying in one foraging spot for any appreciable amount of time, and our only Red Knot of the day wasn't able to land and kept flying by, gaining altitude as it eventually disappeared to the east.
Monday, June 1, 2009
NPS Complicit in Lawbreaking at Plum Beach?
From a correspondent:
Posted by credo-ny at 7:19 AM