EMPIRE, MI – 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 will 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 one of two orientation sessions. The first will be held on Saturday, May 21 at 1:00 p.m. at the D. H. Day Log Cabin in the D. H. Day Campground between Glen Arbor and Glen Haven. Please park in Glen Haven and walk the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail a quarter-mile to the log cabin. Accessibility parking is available, please call ahead (231-334-4634).
If you are unable to attend the first meeting, another opportunity will be provided on Tuesday, May 24, 7:00-8:30 p.m., at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center, 9922 Front Street, Empire, Michigan 49630. Bark Rangers will receive training and Bark Ranger gear for their dog, if they choose to volunteer with their dog. You do not have to own a dog to become a Bark Ranger. As part of the volunteer training, a brief session on preventative care for you and your dog while working in hot weather environments will be presented by Dr. Jennifer Sidge, DVM.
National Lakeshore Wildlife Biologist Sue Jennings is looking forward to the event. “We welcome dogs in the park, but 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. We think a Bark Ranger volunteer program could be a fun way to help bridge the information gap and protect our plovers.”
The National Lakeshore provides critical habitat to over one-third of the entire breeding population of the Great Lakes Piping Plover. In 2015, 28 pairs of 75 known pairs throughout the entire Great Lakes nested within the park. “Volunteers play an integral role in our visitor education and outreach efforts,” Jennings noted, “and can often make a greater impact leading by example. We hope there is enough interest to give this approach a try.”
If you are interested in volunteering but are unable to attend either of the sessions, please contact NPS Wildlife Biologist Sue Jennings at 231-326-4751.