Dog Prohibition at Coal Oil Point Reserve: Q&A

Who has the authority to prohibit dogs and protect endangered species?

The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are the agencies authorized to enforce the Endangered Species Act. The California Coastal Commission is responsible for enforcing the policies set at the UCSB’s Long Range Development Plan, which includes this dog policy.   

Coal Oil Point Reserve staff work with these agencies regularly to ensure that the sensitive resources are protected for future generations.

What is the policy that prohibits dogs from being on Sands Beach?

A new policy prohibiting dogs in the entire Coal Oil Point Reserve including Sands Beach was approved in 2017 in Amendment No. LRDP-4-UCS-16-0001-1.

LRDP Policy LU-33 h: “ Dogs are not permitted on the Reserve including on the Pond Trail.”

Why prohibit dogs now? The Snowy Plover has been nesting successfully at Sands Beach since 2001.

The Snowy Plovers at COPR have successfully recovered a breeding population since 2001, with dogs on the beach. There are 2 reasons to answer your question. 1) to increase the population of Snowy Plovers to the point that they are no longer endangered, breeding sites along the Pacific coast need to maximize the production of 

chicks. A large effort has been made in the last 20 years all along the coast and the plovers increased in numbers but reached a plateau. Agencies are now looking at what else can be done to continue increasing plover numbers. 2) Dogs and people are not allowed to kill or harass plovers, it is actually a crime under the Endangered Species Act. Several plovers were killed and harassed by dogs at Sands Beach. When this happens, a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) may be triggered by federal and state agencies. This is not a good solution because an HCP may include closing parts of the beach. The COPR team aims to protect the plovers AND keep the beach open for people. We need the cooperation of dog owners to achieve this. Please help inform dog owners. Thank you. Remember, Devereux Beach and Ellwood West are still open to dogs on leash. This is a small change in routine that benefits Snowy Plover and other shorebirds. 

How do you know that it is dogs, not other predators, that impact plovers?

We monitor the Snowy Plovers’ nesting area three times a week and record their numbers, causes of death of eggs and chicks, survival rates, etc.  Most of the time predators leave distinct footprints on the sand and this allows us to identify them.  We also record the number of people and dogs, whether the dogs are on- or off-leash, and if they chased birds and trespassed into the nesting area. This data is recorded every two hours.  Although many predators can kill plovers, dogs are now in large numbers and have killed Snowy Plover chicks and eggs.  

I see many plovers everywhere, even on the East Coast and in inland lakes. Why are they threatened?

There are different species and subspecies of Snowy Plovers that look alike. The Snowy Plovers found on the East Coast are a different species called Piping Plover. The ones at COPR are part of the Pacific population of the Western Snowy Plover. A DNA study comparing inland and coastal Snowy Plovers accepted the fact that the Pacific and inland populations are distinct.  Snowy Plovers that were banded with individual color bands on the coast and inland lakes showed that these two populations do not interbreed because they each only breed on their own preferred site.  

Why should we protect species that are not doing well?  Doesn’t the survival of the fittest determines the outcome?

There are many discussions about this topic on the Internet, but here are just a few examples.  

Legality: the Endangered Species Act and the Coastal Act protect species and habitats and it is a crime to destroy protected species or habitats.

Ethics: Most Americans support the protection of endangered species and think the 

preservation of biodiversity should be a priority.   

Religion: All religions think that we need to protect nature. 

Economy: Biodiversity is critical to a healthy economy and harbors pharmaceutical and other solutions to future food crises.  

I can do anything I want below the mid-high tide, how can you prohibit dogs?

Just because the area below the mid high tide is under the State Lands Commission jurisdiction, it does not mean that it is not protected.  This area is a Marine Protected Area that allows no take (removal of disturbance of organisms).  The feeding habitat for Snowy Plovers and other shorebirds is mainly the area below the mean high tide, where most beach hoppers and flies inhabit.  The Snowy Plovers are protected in all habitats they use. 

Where can I walk my dog in this area?