Alberta Piping Plover Predator Exclosure and Population Monitoring Program 2003


Lance Engley and Roy Schmelzeisen


Nest depredation has been identified as a significant limiting factor to the Great Plains piping
plover population. Previous studies conducted in east-central Alberta have shown that the use of
predator exclosures can significantly reduce piping plover nest depredation. As a result, predator
exclosures are applied to as many nests as possible in Alberta with the goal of increasing nest

In addition to protecting nests, annual surveys are conducted on core breeding lakes in order to
better gauge population numbers and movement. These surveys complement the International
Census conducted every five years. They also give researchers an opportunity to re-sight piping
plovers banded in Alberta in previous years, as well as those banded in other jurisdictions. The
information collected from band recoveries assists wildlife managers in determining dispersal
patterns as well as adult and juvenile survival.

Two types of predator exclosures were used during the 2003 field season. Both were very
similar in design. The only difference in the two was that one design was prefabricated by a
steel manufacturer and the second type was built in the field by researchers. Both exclosures
were small, quick to apply and proved very effective in protecting piping plover nests from
potential predators. Twenty four more nests were enclosed in 2003 than in 2002. Ninety three
percent of the 71 enclosed nests hatched compared with only 43 percent of the seven unenclosed
nests of known fate.

One hundred fifty two adult plovers were located on 23 lakes during surveys in Alberta in 2003.
Over half of these birds were found on four lakes (Muriel, Dowling, Reflex and Chain #4). A
total of 33 waterbodies were surveyed in Alberta. Brood surveys were conducted on 15 Alberta
lakes and 83 young were counted. Additional effort was directed towards monitoring broods and
ultimately at least 104 young were considered to have fledged. One hundred and one young
were banded and 34 band re-sightings were recorded during the summer of 2003.

In addition to the field work associated with this project, field crews gave talks to a variety of
groups including local school children, boy scouts and girls guides.

All activities carried out during the course of this project were done in support of the “Alberta
Piping Plover Recovery Plan 2002-2004”. In particular, these activities were conducted to
address Section 5.3 Productivity Enhancement, Section 5.4 Information and Education and
Section 5.5 Research of the Recovery Plan. Results from this project will be presented at the
next Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Team meeting to seek endorsement for the continuation of
this project in 2004.

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