Update on the Elegant Tern Tragedy
Thomas Anderson

Elegant Tern abandoned nestsThousands of Elegant Terns abandoned
their nests when an illegal drone crashed
in May. Photo by CDFW.
The story has become international news: Between 1500 and 2000 Elegant Terns abandoned their eggs when a drone crashed amidst their nesting area on May 11. This is devastating news, caused by those who do not understand that the Bolsa Chica is an Ecological Reserve we share with wildlife, not a personal playground. Drones are not permitted in any State Ecological Reserve. Elegant Terns nest only in a few select places in California and Baja, Mexico. They will not return to Bolsa Chica this year. A second drone crashed in the California Least Tern nesting area but fortunately those birds returned.

The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife is currently working with local, State and Federal agencies to investigate the incident with the drone and Elegant Tern and will provide a full report once it is complete. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will be the lead on the investigation.

Melissa Loebl, BCER Manager said, “I want to thank you for support and efforts to help us spread the word and talk with the community. The owner of the drone is being investigated by the DA offices and we plan to press charges. In the future if you see violations, document them and send to me. I plan to work with the officers to find solutions and cite those who do violate the rules and regulations.”

While members and supporters of the Amigos de Bolsa Chica are aware of the rules when visiting the Ecological Reserve, far too many others are not. If you see any illegal activities, call 888-334-2258. While it may not prompt immediate response from a Fish & Wildlife Warden, it will help the department know what’s happening at Bolsa Chica and take action.

Enjoy your time in nature and observe the following rules:

  • No dogs.
  • No drones.
  • No bikes.
  • Fishing is permitted only in the designated area along Warner Avenue near the Interpretive Center.
  • Please stay on the trails. The mud is a fragile home to small creatures that birds and fish depend on.
  • Do not litter. Please take your trash with you, especially any food scraps.
  • Do not feed the birds or any wild animal.