‘Be aware, respect wildlife’ this weekend at the beach

By Cyndi Sellers

“Be Aware, Respect Wildlife” is the message of the Cameron Parish Tourist Commission to beachgoers this July 4th weekend. Signs have been posted at area beaches asking the public to avoid driving on areas known to host beach nesting shorebirds. “Please respect these birds and their lives, for wildlife of Cameron Parish is important to us,” says a Tourist Commission statement.

Katie Barnes, wildlife biologist with Audubon Louisiana, says signs have been placed at various beach access points for awareness that they are sharing the beach with lots of wildlife that rely on it. She says birds and people can share the beach during this critical nesting season if people will just show a little respect.

Unfortunately, respect is sometimes in short supply. One of the signs, at Broussard Beach, was stolen within 48 hours of being set up. A few weeks ago someone intentionally drove an ATV through a marked nesting area destroying hundreds of nests. With or without a sign, it is against state and federal law to disturb shorebird nesting areas.

For the July 4 weekend, three nesting areas on the west side of Rutherford Beach have been fenced and prepped for the expected crowds. Audubon Louisiana will be on site stewarding the areas.

Beach travelers should stay on the lower beach while driving, stay off the beach grasses and dunes, and avoid parking where angry birds seem to be protesting their presence. This behavior means a nest is near, and if the parent is away from the nest too long, trying to chase off intruders, the eggs and chicks will die from the heat.

These shorebirds have traveled to Cameron Parish beaches for hundreds or thousands of years to nest and rear their young. Their survival as a species depends on safe nesting places.