GTPulse: Dogs Help Protect Sleeping Bear Dunes with Bark Ranger Program

Here in Northern Michigan, we are lucky enough to have a beautiful National Park right in our backyard. The Sleeping Bear Dunes provide us beauty, a playscape, and endless photo opportunities that can make even the most novice photographer look pro. Like all other National Parks, it’s preservation is dutifully protected. Park Rangers and other National Park Service staff keep the Dunes happy and healthy, but there are also volunteers who help out too. An unlikely crew looking over the National Park are the Bark Rangers, dynamic dogs whose mission is to help other dogs use the park safely.

Wildlife Biologist Vincent Cavalieri works for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and is in charge of the program.

“It’s actually a wider program within the Parks services. At Sleeping Bear Dunes I believe it started in 2014.”

The volunteer program involves both dog and owner to be stewards of the land by following four tenets of the program following each letter of BARK. B is for Bag. A is Always on a Leash. R is Respect Wildlife. K is Know Where You Can Go. For everyone to be safe and have fun, all must be followed.

“They work as ambassadors for other people who bring their pets to the park to teach them behavior and etiquette for having their pet in the park. The biggest one is the leash and having your pet under control.”

The Piping Plover especially needs to be comfortable in their own habitat. The species has been endangered since the ‘80s and has its largest Great Lakes concentration at Sleeping Bear Dunes. They’re very vulnerable to dogs and have had their homes and lives destroyed by unleashed dogs in the past.

“Oftentimes the Bark Rangers are stationed near where folks would walk near Plover beaches. Generally, the Plover beaches are all closed to dogs, they’re not supposed to go there. Oftentimes the Bark Rangers head folks off and let them know where they can go.”

The Bark Ranger program is a great way to get you and your pup out, and you get the best of both worlds, socializing and hanging out in nature. The volunteer opportunity is open to anyone who is interested in the preservation of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Big dogs or little dogs, stature isn’t important. What is important is good social skills and manners.

“It helps if you have a calm dog that is going to be good around people and other dogs.”

The program will work around your schedule with a coordinator setting up what days and times you and your Bark Ranger will be on duty.

“You can commit to whatever you would like to, but we do a regular schedule to know who’s going to be where and when.”

The program is in play during the busy season, typically from May to September, but not in the winter. 

If your four-legged friend sounds like a perfect candidate to be a Bark Ranger, get ahold of Vincent Cavalieri vincent_cavalieri@nps.gov for how you can sign up.

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Categories: GTPulse