Saving the piping plover on Cedar Beach

April 8, 2008 2:17:34 PM PDT
There is a battle brewing over how to protect an endangered bird on Long Island. But part of the plan to help save the piping plover has some people angry, because officials would have to get rid of some cats.

Now, leaders in Brookhaven are considering hiring a professional trapper to help with the problem.

Eyewitness News reporter Emily Smith has more.

Its not warm enough on Cedar Beach for the piping plovers to be out at this time of year. The bird is a rare endangered species, smaller than a robin, that makes its home in nests along the water.

"I believe on the island, there's only a couple hundred of them," said Charlie McGinley, the director of the Brookhaven Animal Shelter. "Entire Long Island east coast, there's not that many more."

Cedar Beach-goers spotted just two piping plovers all of last year, which environmentalists say is a tragedy. And for the town, that could be a financial nightmare. Federal officials have threatened to sue the town up to $15,000 a day if the endangered birds aren't protected.

"It's one of the concerns we have," said McGinley said. "Again, our concern is for all the animals."

So what is causing these birds to diminish so significantly that they are on the endangered species list? Feral cats, born in the wild, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

To avoid the fines, the town has a spay and neuter trapping plan to completely rid the area of feral cats, assuming no one brings more. If the plan is approved, it will cost taxpayers up to $10,000 to hire a professional trapper.

Dawn Reilly, president of the Animal Alliance of Long Island, says taxpayers should be outraged. She says the plan will never work and points out a bigger problem.

"The solution is the for the town to step up to the plate," she said. "To put up a surveillance system to prosecute dumpers and to support us in the relocation of these animals."

Town officials say they plans to post signs pointing out dumping off animals is illegal, but say one way or another, the town is going to de-cat Cedar Beach to save something so rare from exiting our ecosystem.