In this May 30, 2019 photo, a piping plover walks on the sand in Glen Haven, Mich. Credit: John Flesher / AP

Two nests of piping plover, an endangered species, were vandalized over the Fourth of July in Old Orchard Beach and Saco, prompting warnings from state wildlife officials who are investigating both incidents.

The nest in Old Orchard Beach was disturbed when its enclosure was purposefully dismantled, forcing a nesting pair of adult chicks to flee the nest and temporarily abandon three eggs, while fencing enclosing another nest at Goosefare Brook in Saco was destroyed. That forced an adult pair and chicks to abandon the nest. One chick was found dead. Both incidents occurred overnight on Saturday, according to a statement from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

The harassment or death of an endangered or threatened species can lead to state and federal charges resulting in fines of up to $25,000 and six months imprisonment, according to the statement.

According to a listing at maine.gov, the piping plover is a small, handsome shorebird about seven inches long found on sandy beaches and dunes in southern Maine. It became endangered and listed as ‘threatened’ by federal wildlife preservation agencies due to the loss of more than two-thirds of Maine’s 30 miles of beaches as nesting habitat following construction of jetties, seawalls and high density housing.

Maine’s population has grown from 15 breeding pairs in 1986 to to 89 pairs in 2019. The species has benefited from the widespread implementation of management practices including installing symbolic fencing around nests, leashing dogs, posting caution signs, reducing predation and asking beachgoers to modify their activities near birds and fenced areas, according to the statement.

Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to call 800-ALERT-US or 207-624-7076.