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Off-roaders, here we go again: Week 10 update

Ormond Beach, Oxnard California - 5/16/24

Total Nests

Active Nests

Hatched Nests

Failed Nests

Snowy Plover

29

9

13

6

Least Tern

0

0

0

0

We are still hearing least terns, but they are only flying high above the dunes. Based on our numbers so far we are having a pretty good year for snowy plovers, but things may be changing. We've had troubling developments. Off-roaders have cut the north habitat fence and entered the dunes to ride donuts throughout the nesting area, causing severe damage. Then someone is stealing our trail cameras right off of nests, most of the cameras we have deployed are gone. So sadly no trail camera video or images to share this week. This is all troubling news, but we are communicating this information to authorities and the Ormond Beach Project Partners, and seeking solutions. It's not always an easy time for these threatened and endangered birds in habitat so dominated by human activity. So we push on seeking solutions and ideas.


The Off-Roader Saga at Ormond Beach

On our last nest survey we were greeted with a cut fence, vehicle tracks leading into the dunes, and a large area covered with donuts and tires tracks. We were very fortunate that no nests were lost this time, but it was a close call. One of the nests that hatched a week previous would have been destroyed if the timing had been different. We have least terns circling the habitat and they typically nest about now, right where these tracks were laid. We have had a pause in snowy plover nesting activity, and it could be a natural break between nesting "waves" or they may be abandoning the Ormond Beach for safer habitat. We actually hope they will not try to re-nest in this area if this is what is in store for the rest of the summer.


Severe damage to the dunes from last week
The place where off roaders cut the fence and entered. We patched the cuts as best we could.

Illegal off-roading has been an on going problem now for 7 years. We managed to get a drone flight in most cases soon after the damage was caused, so we have good documentation of the damage done to the habitat. On the ground photos do not do justice to the overall destruction. All of these off-roading incidences were in the same part of the beach, and off-roaders accessed the beach from the same access points.


Police have been involved and have tried to help. In one case they even pursued the perpetrators, but it is nearly impossibly to catch people who do this. It's a big beach, and there are many illegal points of access. What we need are names of the people who do this, addresses, photos of the vehicles, registration numbers of the vehicles, or any way they can be identified.


The Fence

Off roaders did not easily give up on riding at Ormond Beach when their access was blocked at main entry points in the last 1990's. We began nest monitoring in 2003 and each year we still had problems with off-roaders entering through other more obscure access points. However we did have nearly 10 years when they were largely held at bay. In late 2009 a large chain link fence was installed to block a common off-roader access point that was on private property. It essentially stopped the entry of off-roaders to that part of the nesting habitat for 7 years. But it corroded in the beach environment and eventually disintegrated in about 2016.

The old chain link fence before it fell apart

There have been no funds to replace the old fence and we have made do with our mesh fencing material. As part of our nest surveys we swing by the location each week and patch any new damage. In some cases vehicles have just crashed through the fence. It has been an ongoing battle to patch what has been taken down. Determined off-roaders are not stopped.


The Current Fence: Left Panel - repaired mesh fence; Right panel - Truck drove through fence
Recommended Solutions
  1. We have requested that the Ormond Beach Project Partners find the funds to build chain link fence in this location as soon as possible.

  2. We need eyes on the ground. Any individual walking the beach who sees a UTV, please report what you see. The only motorized vehicles allowed on Ormond Beach are police, rescue or other resource management vehicles.

  3. We seek additional funding for security cameras, as our trail cameras are too easy to steal. Cellular cameras would provide images live and would give us a better chance of catching perpetrators in the act.

  4. We are seeking permission to fly a drone over the area to better document the damage

  5. Advocate to transition Ormond Beach into a National Wildlife Refuge.

  6. Contact elected representatives and express your opinion. Our elected officials need to know our opinions about this. The following have Ormond Beach in their districts:


Beach Naturalist Workshop

We need eyes on the beach. The more people who care about the wildlife and who take action to make a difference, the better chance we have of stopping this kind of activity, as well as other crimes. We have a volunteer Beach Naturalist workshop coming up on May 25th, which is nearly full, but then there is another one on June 29th.





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