|In many beach areas of
California that seem like wilderness, dogs were once allowed but
no longer are. Sometimes rangers are even challenged by visitors
who demand to know why they can't let their dogs roams freely.
The California State Parks did an excellent job of responding to
the queries they get, providing their logic behind why some
beaches prohibit dogs. In a nutshell, they say the Snowy Plover
bird is a major reason for the rules.
Here are some beaches
in California that do allow dogs.
Snowy Plover Protectionn
The Pacific coast population of western snowy plovers has been
in decline for several years, due to a loss of habitat and
disturbances due to development, recreation, and other human
pressures. In 1993, the population of western snowy plovers was
listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under
the federal Endangered Species Act. The western snowy plover is
listed as a "species of special concern" by the State of
California. The Bay Area District of California State Parks
monitors, educates and enforces regulations to promote recovery
of the plover population. 62 locations in California were looked
at in 2001 with specific goals for breeding bird numbers. 44 of
those locations included some State Park property.
State Parks enforces rules prohibiting dogs, horses, camping,
motorized vehicles, fireworks and fires on State Beaches. Bans
on removing natural features such as driftwood are also
enforced. State Parks also requests cooperation from beach goers
to refrain from flying kites near nesting areas, as hovering
kites resemble predators such as hawks, and may cause nest
Leashed dogs in State Park campgrounds are not prohibited nor in
picnic areas, parking areas or roads. Dogs on-leash are also
allowed on Montara State Beach, Bean Hollow State Beach, the
Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail and other beaches not operated by
the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Plovers often flush from nests at just the sight of a dog,
regardless if it is on a leash or not. Dogs that are near to or
chasing snowy plovers can frighten adult plovers into abandoning
nests or chicks. A frightened snowy plover may crush its own
eggs while running off a nest, or may lose its chicks. Also,
birds have very small reserves of energy. The amount of energy
that a bird expends fleeing from dogs, instead of gathering
food, can actually be enough to kill the bird.
The federal Endangered Species Act makes it a crime "to harass,
harm, pursue" a threatened species without special exemption,
and is defined to include significant habitat modification or
degradation which actually kills or injures wildlife by
significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including
breeding, feeding or sheltering. If a beach goer brings a dog
onto the beach, and the dog disrupts the feeding of a bird,
leading to the bird’s injury, then it is a violation of the law.
Snowy plovers have very good camouflage. Nests and eggs blend in
so well that you often cannot see them unless directly on top of
them. Objects such as hovering kites or Frisbees resemble
predators such as hawks, and may cause nest abandonment. Or, the
continual presence of kites can lead some plovers to learn to
"tune them out," and to therefore not be aware of natural
predators, making them an unnaturally easy target. Therefore,
you may be asked to move your activities to another part of the
beach to avoid impacts on shorebirds. In addition to the western
snowy plover, numerous shorebirds use the beach for feeding.
Dogs and kites can cause harm to them as well. Marine mammals
such as seals, sea lions, and otters often use the beach to
rest, and can be harmed or stressed by dogs. State Beaches on
the San Mateo Coast are also part of the Monterey Bay National
While western snowy plovers and other shorebirds can survive and
nest only in certain areas, domesticated dogs are not part of
the natural beach ecosystem. Remember that there are many places
where you can take your dog, but only one place—the beach—where
snowy plovers can breed. Plovers will often use bits of shells,
driftwood, and other natural features to make their nests. These
features are part of the natural habitat and need to remain at
Dogs on-leash are allowed at Montara State Beach, Bean Hollow
State Beach, and beaches that are not managed by the California
Department of Parks and Recreation, such as Poplar Beach and
Surfer’s Beach in Half Moon Bay.
Leashed dogs are allowed in State Park campgrounds, picnic
areas, parking areas and roads (with the exception of Año Nuevo
State Reserve) and on Half Moon Bay’s Coastal Trail.