Brendan Clifford: (603) 271-2461
Susi von Oettingen: (603) 223-2541
US Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement: (617) 889-6616
July 23, 2010
$2,500 Reward Offered in Piping Plover Case
CONCORD, N.H. – Just as the breeding season for the state endangered and federally threatened piping plover shorebirds got underway earlier this spring, so did a federal investigation into who stole a full clutch of protected plover eggs from Hampton Beach State Park during the first week of May.
There were four pairs of piping plovers present on New Hampshire beaches this year: two at Hampton Beach State Park and two at Seabrook Beach. The first pair at Hampton Beach State Park established their nest early in May and biologists set up a protective fence around it to keep predators out. “Unfortunately, someone vandalized the fence and stole all four plover eggs,” said Brendan Clifford, a biologist with the N.H. Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program.
“Our goal is to get the birds to nest and have the chicks hatch and fledge as soon as possible each spring so that we can take down the fencing and open up the whole beach for people to use as the weather gets warmer,” stated Susi von Oettingen a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “When vandalism like this occurs, it actually extends the breeding season, because now the birds have to start over and lay a new nest.” If the eggs from the first nest had hatched, the chicks would have been able to fly by the end of June and the beach would have been completely open for the Fourth of July holiday.
The theft sparked an investigation by both N.H. Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement because the birds, and their eggs, are protected by both state and federal endangered species laws. “This is a violation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act and is taken very seriously,” said von Oettingen. “The vandalism indicates that it could have been intentional and a willful violation. Each stolen egg counts as a separate violation. If it was intentional and the person was caught and convicted, a fine of up to $25,000 for each egg taken and a sentence for up to six months in prison or both could be levied,” von Oettingen stated.
The incident took place during the night of May 6 or the morning of May 7 at Hampton Beach State Park. Witnesses in the area described a possible suspect as a white male in his late 40s to mid 50s, approximately 5'10" with a thin build and grayish, salt-and-pepper hair and driving a gold/tan Toyota, possibly a Camry or Corolla.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading into an arrest, criminal conviction, civil penalty assessment, or forfeiture of property in the case. If anyone has any information about the incident, please contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement at (617) 889-6616.
Regular updates on the piping plover breeding season can be found on the piping plover project page of the NH Fish and Game website at www.wildnh.com/nongame.
Since protection efforts began in 1997, a total of 83 piping plover chicks have fledged from New Hampshire’s seacoast. New Hampshire’s efforts are part of a region-wide protection program; overall, the Atlantic coast population of piping plovers continues to hold steady.
Protection of this endangered species is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, N.H. Fish and Game Department, N.H. Division of Parks and Recreation, the Town of Seabrook, the Town of Hampton, volunteers, local residents and beach visitors.
For more information on piping plovers, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website at plover.fws.gov.