Roughly 2,000 elegant tern eggs were destroyed after terrified adult sea birds abandoned them in the wake of a drone crash. The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, located in California’s Orange County, is home to over 800 species of animals that rely on the 1,000+ acre wetland for solace. Along with dogs and bikes, drones are strictly prohibited. That didn’t prevent two reckless remote pilots from flying their drones over the nesting area, crashing, and causing unprecedented carnage.
‘A couple [of] weeks ago, thousands of Elegant terns were lost when two drones crashed by Tern Island,’ says the conservancy. ‘It is believed that the nesting terns left the eggs when they were incubating in response to the threat that the drones posed. This has never happened at such a large scale at the reserve.’
A couple weeks ago, thousands of Elegant Terns were lost when 2 drones crashed by Tern Island. It is believed that the nesting terns left the eggs they were incubating in a response to the threat that the drones posed. This has never happened at such a large scale at the reserve. pic.twitter.com/IcGhBZMtOR
— Bolsa Chica Conservancy (@BolsaChicaCon) June 3, 2021
Wetland areas have specific rules in place to protect their inhabitants. Dogs are seen as predators that leave behind waste if their owners don’t clean up. Some bikers forge their own trails and disturb environments as a result. While someone could launch their drone outside the border of the conservancy, and legally fly, it’s still highly discouraged because of the risk involved.
Due to the two drone crashes 3,000 adult elegant terns fled the site, leaving the eggs unprotected from threats including gulls and foot traffic. Scientists have no idea where the adult sea birds went or if they’ll be returning. According to the Los Angeles Times, 95% of coastal wetlands have been destroyed along the Southern California coast. Bolsa Chica has volunteers in place to prepare nesting areas for the months of April through August so sea birds can safely breed, nest, and fly back to Central or Southern America with their chicks when ready.
This brings up an important point for all remote pilots who think they can evade drone laws: offenders aren’t always caught by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife was able to successfully find and charge one of the guilty pilots. The other remains at large. This brings up an important point for all remote pilots who think they can evade drone laws: offenders aren’t always caught by the Federal Aviation Administration. The National Park Service, for example, oftentimes investigates and cites lawbreakers—especially after illegal footage is posted online.
Because of COVID19, drone flying has become a more common hobby due to the fact that you can socially distance yourself from others. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of or wants to abide by, the laws set out to protect others—in this case, vulnerable and sometimes endangered species that inhabit the wetlands. Sadly, fines and citations won’t bring back the lives of the thousands of baby elegant terns lost to such a senseless set of incidents.