Memorial Day weekend has come, and gone, and with it a significant milestone — the ground nesting and shore birds are well into their nesting season. At this time of year the Island is on the cusp of seasons and the temperature and conditions can vary dramatically. With a round of snow last week, and four inches of bucketing down rain on Saturday the birds have had to hunker down and huddle over their eggs to keep them from dangerous weather conditions. Further they must be kept from predators such as skunks and raccoons against which a defense is difficult if not impossible. That this is a very stressful time for nesting birds cannot be overestimated.

This year the peril has been particularly acute because of the fraught conditions exacerbated by the numbers of free roaming dogs along coastal beaches and around inland ponds. Many seasonal visitors this spring have arrived to shelter in place and to self-quarantine. While that could mean staying inside, for many and for most of those with pets, that means a long daily walk or jog in a normally empty nature sanctuary or coastal beach where there are nesting shore birds. Endangered nesting birds include plovers, terns, and American oyster catchers. Lest you believe that Islanders are free of sin in this particularly egregious assault, that is not true.

Further, Islanders routinely allow their pets to roam free, chasing endangered species and scaring other visitors. And how many folks routinely clean up after their pets, or if they do just as routinely leave the output at the trail head for others to clean up.

For those who do not know, substantial criminal and civil fines plus jail terms of up to six months are mandated for the taking of an endangered species. Further for harassing farm animals the farmer is allowed to terminate the offending dog — no questions asked or second chances.

So keep your dogs on a leash and/or under control.

Virginia C. Jones

West Tisbury