06.08.2021 | 9:00 PM | HUNTINGTON BEACH – Police are ramping up enforcement and education efforts after a drone crash caused thousands of birds to abandon their nesting grounds at an ecological reserve.
The crash occurred on May 12th at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve located in the 18000 block of Pacific Coast Highway where approximately 3,000 Elegant Terns, a common seabird, and their estimated 2,000 eggs were nesting.
The impact of the crash resulted in the birds abandoning their eggs and leaving the nesting area. None of the eggs remaining are believed to be viable.
“We’ve never seen such devastation here,” said Melissa Loebl, a scientist who manages the ecological reserve.
Police are searching for the operator of the crashed drone who might face a citation or jail time for flying over the ecological preserve.
State law that requires a special permit issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to operate a drone over the ecological preserve – a permit the operator did not have.
The law is intended to protect state wildlife reserve because of the risks posed by drone operations, according to Officer Nick Molsberry of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Despite that law, and signs surrounding the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, the May 12th crash was the second in a span of only 24-hours.
In an incident the day prior, a drone operator crashed near another nesting site at the ecological reserve. That person came forward to claim his drone and was issued a citation.
By partnering with the Department of Fish and Wildlife along with volunteer groups, the Huntington Beach Police Department is seeking to educate the public on the disruptions to wildlife caused by drones.
“By enhancing education and outreach relating to this issue, we hope to mitigate further disturbances to wildlife and nesting sites due to drones,” said Huntington Beach Police Chief Julian Harvey.