New Brunswick

ATV rally moved to protect rare bird

Environment Canada has banned an ATV rally this weekend because it would have disrupted a nesting ground of the endangered piping plover.

It will be piping plovers 1, ATVs 0 on New Brunswick's Miscou Island this weekend.

And that will disappoint 200 riders of all-terrain vehicles who had been planning a rally on the island beach.

ATV riders have been holding their annual rally on the picturesque beach for 15 years, tearing up and down the shore at low tide, having a whale of a time. They were going to do it again this weekend. That is until Ian L'Anglais heard about it.

An enforcement co-ordinator with the species-at-risk branch of Environment Canada, he stepped in and banned the ATVs from the beach.

The spoil sport is the piping plover, a little shorebird, so well-camouflaged that most people don't even notice it.

It is the size of a sparrow and coloured like sand to blend in with the beach. But the piping plover is also a very rare bird, so rare that it has been on Canada's endangered species list since 1985.

There are only 5,913 adults piping plovers in the world, and 422 of them are in Atlantic Canada. New Brunswick has more than any other province on the Atlantic. Even so, there were only 203 adults in New Brunswick in 1991 and even fewer, 146, in 1996.

"Seeing that these beaches have a number of piping plover nests, we decided that we had to step in and make sure that the population doesn't keep declining," L'Anglais said.

ATVs will stress the birds so much that they would probably abandon their nests and perhaps even the area, he said.

L'Anglais didn’t ban the ATVs. He just asked them to move to another beach where they won’t scare any rare birds.

And just to make sure they pay attention, he warned the riders that federal and provincial officials, and the RCMP, will be patrolling the island this weekend.

As for the rally, organizer Marc Hache said it will probably be cancelled.