Natural Resources, School of


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Jorgensen, J.G. & Bomberger Brown, M. 2014. Piping Plovers Charadrius melodus and dogs: compliance with and attitudes toward a leash law on public beaches at Lake McConaughy, Nebraska, USA. Wader Study Group Bull. 121(2): 7–12.


Humans often recreate with their dogs Canis familiaris on public beaches; beaches that may also be used as breeding habitat by imperiled shorebirds. The Piping Plover Charadrius melodus is one such shorebird and is protected by the Endangered Species Act 1973 (ESA) in the United States. Dogs, especially dogs that are not restrained and allowed access to breeding areas because their owners choose not abide by “leash laws”, will sometimes negatively impact Piping Plovers. We evaluated leash-law compliance and recreationists’ awareness of and attitudes toward leash laws at Lake McConaughy, Nebraska, USA, during 2013–2014. Leash-law compliance was chronically low (< 25% of all dogs observed) during all days and time periods we evaluated, even though 78.1% of recreationists with dogs were aware of the leash-law requirements. All 487 individuals surveyed possessed favorable attitudes towards Piping Plovers and continued dog access to the beach, while having generally unfavorable attitudes toward unleashed dogs. It appears the potential exists at Lake McConaughy to improve leash-law compliance through a comprehensive program that uses education, enforcement and reinforcement of social norms.