Snowy owl photographers must stay off the dunes in Island Beach State Park

    In this Dec. 2014 image

    In this Dec. 2014 image

    With at least one snowy owl currently in Island Beach State Park, a non-profit organization warns visitors to respect wildlife from a distance. 

    In a Facebook post, The Friends of Island Beach State Park says photographers seeking the elusive bird must stay out of the the park’s dune systems.

    “There is a fine of up to $1,500 for anyone disturbing or harassing the wildlife,” the post says. “If you are fortunate to see one, stay far back from it so as not to stress it out.” 

    Experts say to keep your distance from the birds, as they may be hungry, tired, and stressed from their long journey to the area.

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    [RELATED: They’re back… Snowy owls return to the Jersey Shore]

    In 2014, an influx of photographers walking on dunes in Island Beach State Park prompted a state official to remind the public to respect the fragile ecosystem.

    “Many folks are tempted to leave the marked trails and trek through and over the dune system in an effort to find particular birds. Any foot traffic will impact a dune — any traffic,” then park manager Ray Bukowski said. “Each foot print will destabilize the sand and cause erosion, one step will destroy a dune grass plant or break a vital rhizome which knit the dune and stabilize the structure.”

    Bukowski noted that dune maintenance is an ongoing task. 

    “Users must be reminded that dune management is a painstaking process supported by thousands of volunteer hours and donations of vegetation and fencing provided by many supporting organizations, particularly the New Jersey Beach Buggy Association and The Friends of Island Beach State Park,” he stressed.

    The Friends of Island Beach State Park says hundreds of volunteers planted dune grass this year in an effort to stabilize the park’s extensive protective system. 

    The Audubon Society offers a guide on how to find snowy owls and another on how to view them respectfully. 

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