Celebrate Independence Day with wildlife in mind
When people think of the Fourth of July, they often think of the red, white and blue, patriotism, apple pie, cookouts and of course – fireworks. As we celebrate our Independence with these beautiful displays of explosive colors and sounds, it is important to remember not only how much joy they bring us, but also how they affect the wildlife that live close by.
A particular area of concern is the beach, a very popular location for partying and viewing fireworks, but also prime habitat for endangered bird species such as piping plovers and roseate terns. The unfamiliar lights and sounds erupting from the beach are perceived not as a celebration, but as a threat.
Federal law states that fireworks must be shot off from at least three-quarters of a mile away from protected habitat. This is because the birds may be startled by the explosions and caused to abandon their nests or broods. Abandoned chicks cannot fend for themselves and are easy targets for predators.
An indirect threat of firework displays on the bird population is increased human disruption of protected land. In order to get a better view of the fireworks, people may cut through protected areas, on foot or by car, potentially crushing nests, killing chicks, and destroying habitat. Garbage and litter left on or near protected lands can be a threat to bird species by attracting predators and posing choking hazards.
Both refuge staff and fireworks companies work together each year to carry on this celebratory tradition while causing as little harm to endangered plover and tern habitat as possible. Fences and barriers are erected to mark off protected lands and discourage people from intruding. Also monitors are hired to watch over the events and make sure that people don’t trespass onto protected lands, litter, or shoot off their own fireworks within the legal boundaries.
So this Fourth of July, while enjoying the colorful displays and celebrating America’s independence, please remember the wildlife that also call this nation home. Have a safe and happy Fourth!
Read fireworks guidance (PDF).
Submitted by Maddie List