By Ronnie Weston| July 3, 2014 at 12:32 PM CDT - Updated July 27 at 6:40 AM
LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – Holiday people, do a good turn for the least tern.
The endangered least terns nest on islands in the Arkansas River. They make it pretty well on their own, occasional floods, predators and all, but unfortunately, these islands are also popular with Fourth of July boaters, picnickers and frolickers.
Nothing wrong with these fun activities, but carelessness or unawareness can mean death and destruction to the birds, the least terns.
Their nests are on the ground, just shallow depressions in the sand, and the eggs are spotted for camouflage. A boat or pontoon barge pulls up, kids, dogs and four-wheelers go out on the sane – and the birds’ nests are imperiled.
A coalition of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife service and Arkansas Tech University are combining efforts to post signs and make the public away of the terns.
Karen Rowe, non-game migratory bird coordinator for the Game and Fish Commission, said, “Few people will deliberately harm the tern nests. The problem is that most people are not aware the endangered birds are on these islands. They are hard to see at just a casual glance.”
Signs are being erected on islands in the river where tern nests have been seen. Other signs are going up at boat launching ramps. They instruct river recreationists to seek other locations instead of sandy islands with tern nests.
Rowe said the birds usually nest on islands with little or no vegetation.. This can be an indicator for boaters – put an island with trees, bushes, vines or weeds. This lessens the chances of disturbing tern nests.
She said least terns may be found anywhere along the Arkansas River from the Oklahoma border to the Mississippi River, but the main nesting section is from Clarksville downstream to Pine Bluff Least terns are found on less than 1/3 of the islands on the Arkansas River .
Lest terns are protected by federal and state endangered species regulations.