By David Wade

DUXBURY (CBS) — Protecting the plovers, but at the expense of another animal. That possibility is enraging some people in Duxbury.

The organization that manages Duxbury Beach has been given permission to kill foxes there that prey on the endangered piping plovers. Some people are asking: how can that be fair?

“It’s a beautiful ecosystem out here,” says Tommy Colbert as he looks out over Duxbury Beach. “I’ve been coming to this beach probably for 30 years now.”

Bill Eastwick has been enjoying the beach for only a year or so. Both men are photographers who enjoy capturing the beach’s beauty. But when they saw a recent Facebook post showing pictures of foxes on Duxbury Beach with the claim that those animals would be killed so they wouldn’t prey on piping plovers, they saw red.

A fox on Duxbury beach. (Photo credit: Karen Walker Photography)

“It’s not one over the other. Who are we to make that decision. That’s what it comes down to,” Colbert says.

Plovers are tiny birds that return to some Mass. beaches in the spring to lay eggs. Since the plovers are an endangered species, they’re protected.

The Piping Plover (WBZ-TV)

The Duxbury Beach Reservation is a non-profit that runs the beach. That organization has been given permission by the state to manage predators, like foxes, that could further endanger the plovers. Since it’s illegal to relocate the foxes, the last resort is to cull the animals that live near the beach.

An online petition with more than 4,000 signatures is circulating, opposing harming any foxes on Duxbury Beach. “Just killing a population of mammals for no reason doesn’t really sit well with a lot of us,” Colbert says.

Eastwick asks, “You’re going to kill one animal to protect another? Or you’re going to kill all the major predators to protect the plovers?”

A fox on Duxbury beach. (Photo credit: Karen Walker Photography)

Late Tuesday afternoon we heard back from the head of the Duxbury Beach Reservation. She told us 10 foxes were killed last year due to the mitigation program, none this year so far. She says the reason this is being done in Duxbury and in other coastal communities is to give the plovers a chance to reproduce and expand their population.

Duxbury Beach also takes a lot of non-lethal steps to protect the plovers, using fencing, signs and even closing the beach on some days to keep the birds and their babies safe.

A statement from EEA Press Secretary Katie Gronendyke said: “To comply with federal and state law, MassWildlife works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, coastal communities and beach managers to protect the Commonwealth’s population of the endangered piping plover while ensuring public access for outdoor recreation. MassWildlife and the USFWS encourage beach managers to implement nonlethal protection measures like fencing, seasonal restrictions on pets, and vehicle prohibitions, while selective predator management should be used only as a last resort.”

David Wade