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Trespassers risk their lives, disturb wildlife by jumping off railroad bridge

Teens jump into Batiquitos Lagoon
Posted at 5:15 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 20:57:48-04

CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) — Officials from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, which oversees the Batiquitos Lagoon nature reserve bordering Carlsbad and Encinitas, says they are seeing an increase in trespassers engaging in dangerous behavior and disturbing wildlife, including an endangered bird species.

“I was out there last week two times, two days last week and I saw at least 20-30 minors jumping into the lagoon," said Gabriel Penaflor, an environmental scientist for DFW.

ABC 10News sent a photographer to check out the situation. From a vantage point along Carlsbad Blvd., she spotted multiple groups of what appeared to be teenagers trespassing into a part of the lagoon area closed to the public. Some climbed the train tracks and leapt into the lagoon, while others fished from the shore. Each of those activities are prohibited in that location.

Penaflor says the risk of someone getting hit by a train is very real. He also says there are dangerous currents in the water under the bridge. “The speeds that are going underneath these bridges are very fast. Sometimes we have trouble traversing these passes with a boat and a motor.”

In addition to putting their own lives at risk, trespassers in the nature reserve also pose a threat to wildlife, including the endangered California Least Tern, which nest in the area. “The bird likes to nest on the ground. So when people access and trespass into these sites, it is very possible they could trample multiple nests and multiple eggs," Penaflor said.

Officials are especially concerned because of a recent incident at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach. Trespassers came through with a drone, which was abandoned in a nesting area for the Elegant Tern. The disturbance frightened off the birds, which abandoned the area, leaving thousands of eggs and chicks behind.

Violators are subject to fines and misdemeanor charge. However, scientists hope that more public awareness will help convince people to stop entering the environmentally sensitive areas, and stop engaging in risky behavior.

“We definitely want people to enjoy the nature, but do so in a way that benefits the people and the nature, as well," Penaflor said.