PARKS Victoria is increasing ranger patrols on peninsula surf beaches in an attempt to help protect the endangered hooded plover during its breeding season from September to March.
Parks Victoria’s peninsula chief ranger Kris Rowe said residents and visitors must abide by dog restrictions.
The tougher regime is due to the disappointing breeding season in 2014-15. Just four chicks survived to fledgling (flying) stage out of 34 chicks hatched. There are fewer than 600 hooded plovers left in Victoria.
Mr Rowe said the hooded plover population in Mornington Peninsula National Park was one of the largest in Victoria. “However it has a lower level of breeding success than those in other Victorian coastal areas and is particularly vulnerable to the presence of dogs,” he said.
“Increased ranger patrols will target dog walkers who breach restrictions such as not having their dog on a lead, walking a dog outside regulated times (between sunrise and 9am) or walking a dog in prohibited zones.
“Dogs are prohibited at all times in specific signposted zones throughout the national park, including between Portsea and Flinders, to protect breeding habitats of plovers and other protected species.
“Dog walking is permitted on-lead between sunrise and 9am only along sections of the national park that are marked by signs. These areas consist of about 14km of coast between Sorrento and Rye and additional sections at Portsea Surf Beach, St Andrews Beach and Flinders Ocean Beach.”
He said it was the responsibility of dog owners to ensure they were aware of the restrictions and were doing the right thing.
“We can’t emphasise enough how important it is for everyone to abide by the rules so that we can give the hooded plovers their best chance of survival,” he said.
Alternative areas for dog walking on the southern peninsula include some Port Phillip beaches and leash-free reserves managed by Mornington Peninsula Shire.
For detailed information and maps, visit www.parks.vic.gov.au or call 13 1963. For advice on dog walking areas outside the national park, visit www.mornpen.vic.gov.au or call 1300 850 600.