Archives for March 2015

Piping Plovers will return to the Great Lakes soon

Piping Plovers, are expected to return to the dunes and shores of the Great Lakes in the coming weeks, according to Vince Cavalieri with the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service.
Typically the first pairs show up on the week of April 6, with the rest of the flock in a few weeks.
Known for their clear, bell-like chirps and rarity, pairs of Piping Plovers are coveted by researchers and birdwatchers alike, Cavalieri said.
The bird’s raise their young among large dunes and open waterways, the species has been threatened in recent decades by humans searching for summertime recreation. After being listed as an endangered species in 1985, the population of Piping Plovers in the region continued to decline until 1990, when scientists estimated there were only a dozen pairs left. In the subsequent decades, researchers, conservationists and volunteers have been working to protect the Piping Plover from both man-made and natural threats.

Piping Plover

Each year, staff and volunteers survey the bird’s nesting areas, which includes Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Ludington State Park. Upon finding the nests, staff put a protective covering in place allowing the relatively small birds room to come and go, while keeping other animals out of the nest. Signs announcing the presence of Piping Plovers are also placed in an area so any humans are made aware of the nests.
To keep track of which birds come from where, Cavalieri said color-coordinated bands are placed on the animal’s feet. Any birds found with orange tags are known to originate from the Great Lakes.
The efforts to conserve the Great Lakes species means there are now approximately 70 pairs of Piping Plovers nesting in the region. Cavalieri said conservationists would like to see about 150 pairs.
“When we place the enclosures to protect the bird’s eggs, we see about a 90 percent hatch rate compared to 30 percent without,” Cavalieri said.
As long as volunteers help and have an interest in preserving the Piping Plover, Cavalieri is hopeful for their future.
If you are interested in learning more about the Piping Plover or would like to volunteer, contact the East Lansing U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Services office at 517-351-2555.

Body wash is damaging the Great Lakes


Lake Erie micro beads

Lake Erie Micro beads

It can be a luxurious feeling to apply a good skin cleanser to your face and feel the accumulated dirt, grime and oils wash away. But it turns out such seemingly innocent indulgence carries an unexpected environmental cost, particularly for those of us who live near the Great Lakes.

The unexpected culprits are micro beads, tiny plastic particles, often less than a millimeter in size, that are found in a wide variety of personal hygiene products — soaps, facial scrubs, even toothpaste. They’re great for exfoliating your skin, but as is too often the case with wondrous artificial ingredients, they’re damaging to the natural environment. Because they’re so tiny, they pass through waste water treatment systems and end up in rivers, lakes and oceans. They easily soak up existing toxins in the water and are consumed by fish and other aquatic organisms that mistake them for food.

A single container of a personal hygiene product can contain 300,000 micro beads, so not surprisingly they are present in the Great Lakes in staggering quantities. Researchers at the State University of New York, Fredonia, estimate that an average of 17,000 of the plastic particles are found per square kilometer in Lake Michigan. The numbers are lower in Lakes Superior and Huron but higher in Erie and Ontario, where the researchers put the plastic concentration there as high as 1.1 million per square kilometer.

Thankfully, both industry and government recognize the need for change. Three consumer-products giants, Johnson and Johnson, Procter and Gamble and Unilever, have said they plan to stop using micro beads in their personal hygiene products. Meanwhile, Illinois became the first state to ban micro beads last year and Indiana is on the verge of doing so as well.

Lake Erie kept freighter Arthur Anderson from loading cargo

STURGEON BAY, WI — The freighter Arthur M. Anderson finally made port this week after an end-of-the-season Indiana to Ohio run became a nearly month-long futile slog across three iced-over Great Lakes.

The 63-year-old laker, famous for its role in the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking, entered winter lay-up in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. on Wednesday morning, March 4, with empty holds after Lake Erie ice kept the ship from loading cargo last month.

Arthur M. Anderson, Lake Erie 2015

Arthur M. Anderson, Lake Erie 2015

On Feb. 22, despite the assistance of three U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard ice cutters over the course of several days, the 767-foot Anderson was unable to enter port in Conneaut, Ohio, due to ice build-up on the southern Lake Erie shoreline.

Ship owner Great Lakes Fleet, a subsidiary of Keystone Shipping Co. of California, ordered the ship to Wisconsin, said the Coast Guard. The ship left Chicago on Feb. 5 to pick up iron ore powder in Ohio and deliver it to U.S. Steel in Gary, Ind.

“They stopped three miles from shore,” said Mark Gill, civilian director of vessel traffic services for the Coast Guard in Sault Ste. Marie. “The ice was too thick and the breakers couldn’t get them through it.”

“The trip was for nothing.”

DNR hatchery sets gold standard for water quality management

After Michigan’s salmon program kicked off in the 1960s, Platte River State Fish Hatchery in Beulah was quickly labeled as the primary Pacific salmon hatchery for the state. With the wild success of the salmon fishery in the Great Lakes, production ramped up swiftly with more than 5 million Chinook salmon and about 3 million Coho salmon getting pushed out the door each year in the 1970s. But just like any other large-scale production effort – there were drawbacks to this growth.

To put it bluntly, all those fish created a lot of waste. Poop to be precise. When production really took off, not a lot of attention was given to what was happening to that waste after it left the facility. Unfortunately it had to go somewhere – which included Platte Lake, downstream from the hatchery.

Understandably so, residents of Platte Lake were concerned. They organized as a collective unit (the Platte Lake Improvement Association) and eventually filed suit against the Department of Natural Resources in circuit court in 1986 claiming the actions at Platte River State Fish Hatchery were impairing the resource.

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DNR to host wildlife hike March 14 on Belle Isle

Join staff from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division Saturday, March 14, for a hike through the woods of Belle Isle looking for signs of predators and prey on the Detroit island park.

The tour begins at 10 a.m. at the Belle Isle Nature Zoo parking lot, at the corner of Lakeside Drive and Oakway Road. This program is appropriate for all ages and will last about an hour. Plan to dress for the weather, including boots. The event, sponsored by the DNR Wildlife Division, is free of charge and does not require preregistration. 

“Many different types of wildlife call Belle Isle home,” said DNR wildlife outreach technician Holly Vaughn. “Some make their living by hunting other animals, while some prefer to munch on plants. We’ll talk about the creatures that live on the island and how they interact with the animals around them.”

The DNR offers monthly wildlife-themed programming on Belle Isle through May. For a complete list of programs, visit

Contact Holly Vaughn at 313-396-6863 with questions.

Remember a Recreation Passport is required for vehicle entry to Belle Isle Park