Sleeping Bear Dunes Closes Beach to Pets, Protecting Piping Plover

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is closing one of their beaches to pets, especially dogs, this summer, to protect an endangered bird.

Piping plover migrate south each year and return to their home of northern Michigan each spring. When they do, the national park employees are sure to monitor and protect them. It’s in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and other agencies.

The bird establishes territories for nesting in the park and the staff will rope off the areas to protect the nests and eggs inside.

This year, the birds have become attached to one particular beach area.

“Peterson Beach area is a relatively new location for the piping plovers to breed in,” says Vincent Cavalieri, Wildlife Biologist. “This year, they seem to be savoring that area with multiple nests in the one spot so we’ve working to extend a temporary closure for the summer just to protect the plovers in that area.”

Peterson Beach will be closed to pets from May 17 to August 15 to protect the birds.

They’re endangered due to habitat loss and predation. Dogs and cats as well as gulls, crows, raccoons, and foxes often harass and kill plover adults and chicks and also take their eggs.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is home to the largest concentrated population of piping plover in the Great Lakes, with half of the entire population calling the area home.

At one point in time, the species could be found all around the state.

You can protect piping plover in Michigan by:

  • Observe and obey the closed area fences. Watch and enjoy plovers from a distance.
  • Keep dogs and other pets on leashes and out of areas of the beach closed to pets.
  • Don’t feed gulls or leave food on the beach. This increases the gull population and attracts predators to the area that will also prey on piping plovers.
  • If you find a plover family outside of the fencing give them some space. The small chicks can disappear quickly in sand or cobble and are easily stepped on.
  • Watch for and report sightings of piping plovers nesting in new areas. Call Sleeping Bear Dunes Headquarters in Empire. (231-326-5134)
  • If you see anyone harassing piping plovers please report it to Sleeping Bear Dunes Headquarters. (231-326-5134)
  • Volunteer to join the Piping Plover Patrol. Call Sleeping Bear Dunes Headquarters. (231-326-5134) or e-mail.