Bird Friendly Beaches: Evaluating dog and human interactions with Great Lakes piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) and other shorebirds

TitleBird Friendly Beaches: Evaluating dog and human interactions with Great Lakes piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) and other shorebirds
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsRutter JE
Number of Pages72
Date Published12/2016
UniversityUniversity of Minnesota
Thesis TypeMasters Thesis
KeywordsPiping Plovers

Shorebirds are declining at an alarming rate globally. The primary causes

identified, and therefore focus of conservation efforts, are climate change and

habitat loss. However, other anthropogenic influences are also important and

need to be addressed. In doing so, cumulative impacts on shorebirds may not be

eliminated but could be decreased. One of the most prevalent issues is dogs

(Canis familiaris) on beaches. To date, no extensive research has been

conducted on how to address this problem although many studies have focused

on obtaining baseline data at specific focal beaches. Chapter 1 is a

comprehensive literature review on dog impacts on shorebirds. Current science

indicates that dogs on beaches are an issue for all shorebirds, at every age, at

any time of year, around the world. However, the best practices for reducing the

impacts or interacting with dogs and their owners were not included in the studies

reviewed. Chapter 2 describes an in-person survey on beaches throughout

Michigan, USA, to better understand the current knowledge and level of support

for beach conservation as well as dog beaches by Michigan beach-goers. On the

30th anniversary of federal listing of the Great Lakes piping plover (Charadrius

melodus) as an endangered population, the responses obtained provide

important information about the current situation on these beaches. Results of

the survey indicate: 1) the majority of participants are not aware of what a piping

plover is (n=317, 58%), 2) participants are generally supportive of protecting

beach wildlife (89% of participants responded “very important”) 3) participants


are relatively supportive of restrictions on human recreation if it helps protect

beach wildlife (67% of participants responded “very important”). These data will

improve current outreach and educational programs as incorporating the human

dimensions aspect of conservation into the project will be crucial to the long-term

success of the recovery effort.

Related people: 
Jordan Rutter
Related research sites: 
Whitefish Point
Wilderness State Park
Petoskey State Park
Sleeping Bear Dunes