Use of Predator Exclosures to Protect Piping Plover Nests in Alberta and Saskatchewan 2001


Lance Engley


The Piping Plover is designated as “Endangered” or “Threatened” throughout its range in North
America. Nest depredation has been identified as a significant limiting factor to Piping Plover
reproductive success, and results from past studies in east-central Alberta have shown that the
use of predator exclosures can significantly reduce Piping Plover nest depredation.

Two designs of predator exclosures were used during the 2001 field season. The first design was
circular, 3 m in diameter and 1.2 m high. The second exclosure design was similar in shape, but
much smaller. This design was about 60 cm in diameter and 40 cm high. It was hoped that these
small exclosures would be as effective as the larger ones in reducing nest and adult depredation,
while being less conspicuous, easier to handle and faster to apply.

Many of the waterbodies included in the study area were dry in 2001. As a result, fewer nests
were located compared to past years. Thirty two nests were found on eight waterbodies.
Traditional nest success, those nests hatching at least one egg, was 69%. Nest success was 80%
for nests treated with exclosures and 50% for nests where exclosures were not applied. No signs
of adult plover depredation were recorded in 2001. Sixty-seven chicks were banded in 2001, and
in addition, 11 adult plovers were banded.

Nest depredation continues to be a limiting factor, therefore research on this management
technique must continue in order to maximize increases in productivity. However, other issues
such as vegetation encroachment, livestock grazing on nesting beaches and human disturbance
need to be addressed in order to help maintain a viable Piping Plover population in Alberta.

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