Dogs, whether with leashes or without, have been banned from Popponesset Spit for the season.
A newsletter from Save Popponesset Bay sent out April 27 reads that no dogs would be allowed on the beach from April 1 until Labor Day in September in order to protect piping plovers and other threatened species.
New signs were recently installed at the beach highlighting the new rule.
“We have been warned by the [US] Department of Fish and Wildlife about dogs on the Spit,” the newsletter states. “Failure to comply can result in severe actions to protect the endangered species who populate the Spit during the spring/summer season.”
Michael Oleksak, president of the board of directors of Save Popponesset Bay, said that the organization has worked with Mass Audubon to keep the beach safe for the threatened species, and that dogs could thwart that effort.
The spit is a privately owned barrier beach separating Popponesset Bay from Nantucket Sound, aside from a boating channel. Save Popponesset Bay, a nonprofit organization that aims to protect the spit from erosion, owns two-thirds of the barrier beach to the southwest, while Mass Audubon owns the eastern one-third.
The one-mile-long barrier beach protects both Popponesset Bay and homes in New Seabury, as well as the many channels that filter into the bay, including the Mashpee River. It is a popular spot for boaters and fishermen.
Piping plovers, a threatened species along the Atlantic Coast, nest and raise their young along the barrier beach through the spring and summer.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, piping plovers were common along the East Coast during much of the 19th century, until commercial hunting of the birds for their feathers to decorate hats nearly wiped them out. Following passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, plovers recovered until the 1940s, when increased development and beach recreation after World War II caused the population to decline. The plover was given protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1986.
The Spit also provides nesting habitat for least terns and common terns. The wildlife sanctuary also serves as a pre-migration fall staging area for common terns and sometimes roseate terns as well as many shore bird species.
“If you see dogs on the Spit this summer, please say something to the owners,” the Save Popponesset Bay newsletter stated. “We do not want to lose our rights to visit the Spit. Don’t let the actions of a few ruin it for others.