Skip to content

Giant sandpiper statue finds permanent perch in New Brunswick village

FREDERICTON — A supersize statue of a sandpiper has found a permanent roost in a New Brunswick village, but officials are warning the structure comes with a "significant level of risk.
Robin Hanson stands with his statue of a semipalmated sandpiper outside of his gallery in French Lake, approximately 30 minutes south of Fredericton, on Friday, March 24, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Stephen MacGillivray

FREDERICTON — A supersize statue of a sandpiper has found a permanent roost in a New Brunswick village, but officials are warning the structure comes with a "significant level of risk."

News that Shep, named in honour of Shepody Bay, was home for good travelled fast Tuesday evening through the village of Dorchester, part of the amalgamated municipality of Tantramar, N.B.

"Shep stays," Kara Becker, Dorchester's former deputy mayor, said in an interview.

"I feel like I've been through a great battle and I'm a warrior who's recuperating. And I just can't believe it was all over this little statue."

The mayor of Tantramar, however, said the statue puts the municipality at an insurance and liability risk. "(The statue) is not our owned property, it sits on municipal land," Mayor Andrew Black told a council meeting Tuesday night.

"It is something that we have to deal with. So, we assume the insurance and the liability on this piece of property." He called the liability risk "significant. The council directed its public works department to confirm the statue was safely installed.

Shep was commissioned by Dorchester's village council about three years ago after the original wooden one began to rot.

The 2.4-metre high and 135-kilogram bird points to the mudflats of the Bay of Fundy, where semipalmated sandpipers spend about three weeks around the end of July, resting and fattening up to almost double their 20-gram body weight before they undertake a journey to South America.

But Shep had been pinioned by red tape when Dorchester merged with Sackville and Pointe de Bute to become part of Tantramar on Jan. 1. The statue was no longer a priority for the new council.

Following media reports about Shep's uncertain fate, Becker said an organization came forward to pay New Brunswick artist Robin Hanson his nearly $10,000 fee for the statue. Eager residents brought the bird to its new home in the back of a truck Saturday afternoon.

Black said the steps taken to acquire the statue ignored the town's purchasing procedures. "It sets a precedent of a lack of respect for the decision-making process," he said. It also flew in the face of provincial laws and a municipal bylaw, he added.

Nonetheless, a motion for Shep to remain on his pedestal was carried unopposed by the nine-member council.

Dorchester is now ready for its annual Sandpiper Festival this summer, Becker said, when visitors will marvel at "the rugged nature of the area, the Bay of Fundy tides and these magnificent little birds."

Deb Shea, whose Village Square Take Out restaurant looks out directly on Shep, said she is glad to have the bird statue back.

"It helps with the business," she said. Last year when tourists started to come back after the worst of the pandemic, she said a number of them had questions about the statue's whereabouts.

"It helps us," she said, adding that it is also a boon for the village's other big attraction, the former Dorchester jail.

"They come here and eat, they take a tour of the jail," she said. "They, you know, they stick around our little community for a little bit. Just like the birds."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2023.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks