Alberta Piping Plover Predator Exclosure and Population Monitoring Program 2005


Roy Schmelzeisen, Lance Engley, Amanda Rezansoff and Dave Prescott


Nest predation continues to be a significant limiting factor to the Great Plains piping plover
population. Previous studies conducted in east-central Alberta and in the United States have
shown that the use of predator exclosures can significantly reduce piping plover nest predation.
Since 2002, predator exclosures have been applied to as many nests as possible in Alberta with
the goal of increasing nest success and ultimately enhancing fledging success.

As a part of this program, 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 across North America and are designed to monitor changes in
populations and distribution. They also provide researchers with 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 and complements the banding program
being undertaken in Saskatchewan.

Predator exclosures used during the 2005 field season followed the same specifications as the
2004 models (Engley et al. 2004). Both models were small, quick to apply and of a similar
design, the only difference being that one design was prefabricated by a steel manufacturer and
reinforced with 3/16 gauge steel. Both designs were initially topped with a 2 cm x 2 cm plastic
mesh; however, other materials were applied in response to coyote attacks on exclosed nests in
which the netting failed to prevent the coyotes from preying upon the eggs. These materials
included a second layer of 2 cm x 2 cm plastic mesh, 1.25 cm x 1.25 cm hardware cloth, 1 cm x
1 cm steel mesh, or 5 cm x 5 cm stucco wire (the same material used to construct the sides).

A total of 119 nests were found in 2005. Of the 109 exclosed nests with known fate, apparent
nest success was 85.3% (93/109). The fate of only one of 6 unexclosed nests was known and
that nest was preyed upon. Mayfield nest success was calculated to be 38.3% for unexclosed
nests and 77.3% for exclosed nests.

Population inventories were carried out on 28 waterbodies. In Alberta, a total of 206 adults were
located on 22 different waterbodies and an additional 34 adults were seen on the adjacent lakes
in Saskatchewan. Increased water levels led to a much higher number of birds on some lakes
that have been dry for the past several years. Piping plovers were located on Mott Lake, on
Canadian Forces Base Wainwright, for the first time. Fledging success was calculated to be
21.6% and we calculated that 0.74 chicks per pair were fledged in 2005.

All activities carried out during the course of this project were done in support of the “Alberta
Piping Plover Recovery Plan 2005-2010”. In particular, these activities were conducted to
address Section 8.2 Productivity Enhancement, Section 8.3 Information and Outreach and
Section 8.4 Population Monitoring and Research of the Recovery Plan. Results from this project
were presented at the fall 2005 Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Team meeting.

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