WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) — A protected piping plover chick was illegally removed from a Westerly beach last week by vacationers who brought it home with them to Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
When the chick began to show signs of poor health, it was brought to a wildlife rehabilitation center. Then, as its health continued to decline, the chick was transferred to Tufts Wildlife Clinic and then to Cape Wildlife in Barnstable.
Despite veterinarians’ efforts, the chick became too weak and died.
The USFWS urges people not to disturb or interfere with plovers or other wildlife. Although wild animals may appear to be “orphaned,” they usually aren’t and their parents are often nearby, waiting for humans to leave.
“Plover chicks are able to run and feed themselves, and even if they appear to be alone, their parents are usually in the vicinity. Baby songbirds, seal pups, and fawns are also at risk from being removed from the wild unnecessarily by people mistaking them for orphans,” the agency explained. “If a young animal is encountered alone in the wild, the best course of action is typically to leave the area. In most cases, the parents will return without human intervention.”
In a rare circumstance that a young animal is in need of help, the USFWS says to contact the appropriate state or federal wildlife agency whose staff is trained to handle that type of situation.
While it may seem like you’re helping, you’re likely causing more harm than good, regardless of your intention, according to the USFWS. In addition, it’s illegal to handle or possess most wildlife, especially threatened and endangered species like piping plovers.
Roughly 85 pairs of piping plovers breed in Rhode Island under the close watch of several agencies.
“With such a small population, each individual bird makes a difference,” said Maureen Durkin, the agency’s plover coordinator for Rhode Island. “By sharing our beaches and leaving the birds undisturbed, we give plovers the best chance to successfully raise chicks each year.”