Piping Plovers Spur Closures At Assateague Island National Seashore

The arrival of Piping Plovers at Assateague Island National Seashore along the coasts of Maryland and Virginia has prompted a temporary closure to give the birds time to nest.

Assateague Superintendent Trish Kicklighter says the closed area includes the portion of the public Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) route south of kilometer marker 18.0. All vehicle use south of KM 18.0 will be temporarily prohibited.The updated closure,which was put in place on June 15, will remain in effect for up to four weeks, the superintendent said.

So as to continue to accommodate overnight camping, the designated "bullpen" camping area will be temporarily relocated north of the new closure area within the existing OSV zone, the seashore announced.

The interior portion of northern Assateague Island, including much of the island north of Assateague State Park, has been closed to public use since April. The ocean beaches along northern Assateague Island remain open and accessible from Assateague State Park and from the boat landing area on the Island's northern tip.

The area closures are necessary to protect Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus), small migratory shorebirds that nest on open, sandy beaches and raise their chicks along the ocean, bay and interior sand flats where they feed on insects and other invertebrates. On Assateague, the Piping Plover breeding season generally runs from April through mid-August. Plovers are easily disturbed by humans and will leave their nests or feeding areas if approached.

The Piping Plover is listed as "threatened with extinction" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due in part to the loss of natural breeding habitat elsewhere along its East Coast range. Assateague Island is the only nesting site in Maryland and one of the densest breeding areas in the Mid-Atlantic region, making this population critical for long-term survival of the species.