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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) is hosting an orientation meeting for anyone interested in volunteering to serve as a “Bark Ranger.” Bark Ranger volunteers and their canine companions serve as ambassadors on National Lakeshore beaches to provide visitors information about the park, highlight pet policies, and pet safety. Bark Rangers will also help to protect the National Lakeshore’s nesting shorebirds. Interested individuals (no dogs, please) can attend an orientation and training meeting on May 10, from 11:0o a.m. - 12:30 p.m., at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, 9922 Front Street, Empire, MI 49630. You do not have to own a dog to become a Bark Ranger. Bark Rangers will receive training and Bark Ranger gear for their dog, if they choose to volunteer with their dog.
National Lakeshore Wildlife Biologist Sue Jennings is looking forward to the event. “We started this program last year and it was very successful.” Jennings said the park received numerous positive comments from visitors about the Bark Ranger program throughout the summer. Piper, the Traverse City Airport K-9, made a few special appearances to help promote the program and was a big hit with the visitors and the Bark Ranger volunteers. She noted dogs are welcome in the park as long as they are on a leash and stay on beaches that are open to dogs. Biologists are concerned about the potential impact unleashed dogs may be having on nesting shorebirds, particularly our piping plovers. “We are seeing an increase in piping plover nest disturbances from dogs whose owners are not fully aware of the negative impact dogs can have on nesting plovers. The Bark Ranger volunteer program is a fun way to inform dog owners of our policies, help bridge the information gap, and protect our plovers.” As of 2016, 28 of the 75 known pairs identified in the entire Great Lakes region make their temporary home in the National Lakeshore, providing critical habitat to over one-third of the entire breeding population of the Great Lakes Piping Plover. “Volunteers play an integral role in our visitor education and outreach efforts,” Jennings said, “and can often make a greater impact leading by example.”
If you are interested in volunteering but are unable to attend the May 10 meeting, please contact Sue Jennings, Wildlife Biologist for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, at (231) 326-4751.