DEEP: Charles Island And Duck Island Closed to Public

May 25, 2006

Connecticut DEP to Close Charles Island and Duck Island to the Public During the Heron and Egret Nesting Season

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced that Charles Island in Milford and Duck Island in Westbrook will be closed to the public starting May 26 and continuing through September 9. The closure is necessary to prevent continuing human disturbance to several state-listed nesting birds at these islands, including snowy egrets and great egrets (state threatened species), glossy ibis and little blue herons (state special concern)

"A tremendous amount of interference with nesting birds has occurred on these islands in the past and has at times caused us to close them on short notice," said DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy. "Continued disturbance could result in abandonment of the nests, and possibly of the entire colony, which would have a tremendous negative effect on these sensitive bird populations. Because of that we decided to be proactive and close the Islands at the start of the nesting season. We are asking for the public’s help in obeying the closures and reporting to the DEP any observed violations."

Both islands have been designated as Natural Area Preserves, primarily because of their importance as nesting habitats for herons and egrets. Both locations have also been designated as Important Bird Areas by Audubon Connecticut.

Over the last several years, the DEP has worked cooperatively with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the nesting colonies (also known as rookeries), while also accommodating reasonable public access to the islands. Educational signs have been erected at access points used by the public to inform them about these rare birds and why they should not be disturbed. The rookeries are fenced and signs are mounted on the fence that read "Do Not Enter – Bird Nesting Area."

"Because of the unusual weather the state has been experiencing, the birds on these Islands are being forced to stick very close to any early nests and are having difficulty seeking mates and actively foraging," said Jenny Dickson, a DEP Wildlife Division biologist. "Because of these factors and others, it is necessary for us to do everything in our power to allow them the space they need to successfully nest. We know the public understands the importance of preserving the habitat for these beautiful birds."

Examples of disturbances to these rookeries include illegal camp-outs and bonfires, unleashed dogs roaming the island (which are perceived as predators by the birds) and human visitors entering the fenced, seasonally closed nesting areas.

Signs stating the closure of Charles and Duck Islands will be posted and DEP Environmental Conservation Police Officers will be patrolling the islands, particularly on weekends and after dark. Anyone caught trespassing on the islands will be arrested. Landing of watercraft on the beaches is prohibited. The public can help in this effort to protect the nesting birds by following the closure and reporting any observed violations at 1-800-842-4357.