MEARS, Mich. (WOOD) — Good news for ORV riders: The staff at Silver Lake State Park have reopened part of the dunes after an endangered bird was found nesting there.
A section at the northern edge of the dunes was closed back in May after a pair of Great Lakes piping plovers were found nesting on the dunes. In a statement posted to social media back in May, park officials said since the birds are protected by the Endangered Species Act, they are required to take action.
Officials at the state park estimated the small parcel of land would reopen in early August — once the plover chicks hatched and were old enough to fly. In the announcement, they did not say why the parcel opened early.
While many beachgoers were happy to accommodate the endangered birds, not everyone was happy with the decision.
On the park’s Facebook page, one commenter sarcastically replied, “Great idea, making (our) small dunes even smaller!” Another suggested, “We just need a good coyote.”
The tiny bird species has been an endangered species for decades and nearly went extinct in the 1980s. However, thanks to help from the Michigan DNR and other agencies, the Great Lakes piping plover has rebounded slightly. This year, wildlife experts counted 74 nesting pairs of piping plovers. The Great Lakes population has averaged around 70 pairs in recent years.
Biologists say the Great Lakes piping plover faces several threats, including the fact that they make a great snack for several nearby predators. Their habitat has steadily shrunk over the last century, with more and more quiet beaches being developed for human use.
The plovers are very picky where they build their nests. They prefer beaches with a lot of pebbles and rocks, and if they feel threatened, they will abandon their nests.
Erica Adams, the piping plover coordinator at Sleeping Bear Dunes, says it’s still clear that the plover needs human help. Her team plays a big role in that process.
“It’s a big group effort between park employees, partners working with us, and then a large volunteer group that also helps us keep an eye on the birds,” Adams told Michigan Radio.