Seasonal dog ban to protect migratory birds at Tofino-area beach hailed a success

Seasonal dog ban to protect migratory birds at Tofino-area beach hailed a success
Combers Beach on western Vancouver Island is shown.

With more migrating shorebirds flocking to Combers Beach, Parks Canada says Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is seeing success with its seasonal dog ban.

The ban, in effect from April 14 to Oct. 1, comes to stop dogs from scaring away shorebirds, ultimately giving the birds more time to rest and feed during long trips between the Arctic and as far south as South America.

“When migratory birds are disturbed, the extra time and energy spent fleeing can affect their survival,” said Nancy Hildebrand, communications officer with Parks Canada, in a statement Wednesday.

“The presence of dogs can also contribute to the habituation of wildlife such as wolves who frequent beaches to access coastal food sources,” she said.

While bird use was generally lower this spring than previous years across most monitored Pacific Rim beaches, including Wick Beach, Long Beach and Schooner Cove, ecologist data finds Combers Beach was up 32 per cent year-over-year.

A map shows the area of Combers Beach currently closed to dogs.

Currently, dogs aren’t allowed at the beach between Sandhill Creek and Green Point Rocks, as well as Combers Beach Trail and the boardwalk from Green Point Campground.

“The pilot ban at Combers clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of the dog restriction as a management tool,” noted Hildebrand.

“On the other hand, visitation has been higher in all beach locations, up to double the number of visitors, except at Combers Beach, where there was approximately a 10 per cent drop in visitation, which likely represents the dog-walker segment.”

Hildebrand says long-term ecological research highlights the Pacific Rim as essential habitat for migratory birds and wildlife, with up to 500,000 shorebirds using local beaches annually.

“Dogs will continue to be permitted in all other areas of the Long Beach Unit of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, but must be kept on leash at all times,” she added, noting that off-leash dogs negatively impact wildlife.

Parks Canada says law enforcement officers patrol all beaches and hand out tickets for a dog off leash starting at $58 for a first offence, with repeat offences potentially leading to court appearances and fines up to $25,000.

Anyone who spots a dog in the Combers Beach area or off-leash anywhere in the national park reserve is urged to alert Parks Canada at 250-726-3604.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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