A seasonal dog ban and leash regulation to protect shorebirds is returning to Combers Beach on west Vancouver Island, and those who don’t abide could face fines.
After a successful pilot run last year, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve says it’s reimplementing the ban at the popular Tofino-area beach from April 1 to Oct. 1.
When in effect, dogs are prohibited between Sandhill Creek and Green Point Rocks, including on the Combers Beach Trail and the boardwalk from Green Point Campground, according to information posted on the reserve’s website.
However, dogs are still allowed in all other areas of Long Beach but must be kept on a leash at all times — whether on the beach, on trails, in parking lots or in the water.
Nancy Hildebrand with Parks Canada tells CHEK News that the area is essential to migratory shorebirds and says the ban and regulation help to decrease disturbances as they migrate.
Off-leash dogs hurt wildlife, the communications officer says, and preventing birds from being scared off gives them more time to rest and feed while travelling.
“Migratory shorebirds depend on the national park reserve as a place to rest and forage for food during long trips between the Arctic and areas as far south as South America,” Hildebrand said in a statement Wednesday.
“When migratory birds are disturbed, the extra time and energy spent fleeing can affect their survival,” she said. “The presence of dogs can also contribute to the habituation of wildlife, such as wolves who frequent beaches to access coastal food sources.”
Up to 500,000 shorebirds utilize local beaches each year.
Looking back at observations from 2022, Hildebrand says the pilot’s first year was positive, with a 97 per cent decrease in dogs and a nine per cent increase in birds. There was also a slight one per cent jump in people visiting the study area.
Yet, visitors often ignore the leash regulation, Hildebrand explains.
She says Parks Canada staff and law enforcement officers will continue to patrol the area, handing out tickets to dog owners who don’t have their pups on a leash. The initial fine is $58, while repeat offenders could face fines up to $25,000 and court appearances.
Parks Canada is asking beach users who see dogs to inform their owners of the ban and leash regulation. It says people can also contact its dispatch at 250-726-3604.