Prince Edward Island conservation officers are investigating after a group of people set up a camp site inside a closed area at Barachois Beach, along the Island's North Shore.
Provincial and federal wildlife officers arrived on the scene to find a tent that been set up on a dune, and a bonfire had been lit.
Shannon Mader, a species at risk manager with Island Trust Nature, was shocked to learn what happened in the prohibited area.
"These folks had set up their tents and had a bonfire with chairs all around it and coolers. They had removed a number of our signs and moved them around in such a way to use them, as I guess, as a goal post for a ball game that they were playing," she said.
"The fact that these folks could not set their tent up and have their bonfire 10 metres outside of that area, it's shocking, I can't understand that line of thinking."
The prohibited zone makes up a "tiny fraction" of Barachois Beach, Mader said.
"We were really upset. This in particular was just a really egregious, blatant choice to ignore our signage, ignore the closed area," she said.
Birds struggling to nest
The piping plovers at Barachois Beach have struggled with nesting. There were seven attempts made last year, and despite four eggs being laid on each attempt, none hatched.
There are various reasons for nesting struggles, but human disturbance is a big contributor, Mader said.
"It could relate to predators or human disturbance, but a lot of the predators that we see on our beach now, like crows and foxes, are there in greater numbers because of the litter that we leave behind."
Receiving notices of human disturbances in prohibited areas isn't common in P.E.I., Mader said. She is grateful that most Islanders are willing to learn about environmental issues.
"We spend a lot of time doing education and outreach on the beach, in other ecosystems, in the schools with community groups, so we're out there talking to a lot of people from one end of the Island to the other about piping plovers, other wildlife, ecosystem services and all kinds of environmental issues."
We need to find better means of cohabitation with other species as our population grows, Mader said.
"As our human population increases on the planet and on P.E.I., we have to figure out how we're going to share this space with wildlife and with birds."
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