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Electric Fences Reduce Mammalian Predation on Piping Plover
Nests and Chicks


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1500 Capitol Avenue, Bismarck, AD 58501;
School of Natural Resources, 112 Stephens Hall, University of Missouri,
Columbia, MO 65211

In December 1985, the piping plover (Charadrius melodus) was listed as federally endangered. Predation limits the piping plover throughout its range. Reproductive success of piping plovers was studied annually from 1984 to 1988 at the John E. Williams Memorial Nature Preserve (JWMNP) in McLean County, North Dakota. Predation limits plover populations at JWMNP, causing 90% of annual egg losses. Mammals were suspected in 65% of egg losses. An equivalent number of chicks, are suspected lost to mammals at JWMNP annually.

Electric predator-fences were constructed at four sites at JWMNP in 1986 to 1987 to increase piping plover productivity. Fences consisted of 2.5-cm-wire mesh supported by T-posts along with a series of three electrically charged wires placed on the outside of the barriers. Fences enclosed entire nesting beaches; unfenced beaches were used as controls to test fence efficacy. Fenced and unfenced beaches harbored from 3 to 15 nests each.

Mean nest survival at fenced beaches was 70% higher than at unfenced beaches (t=2.31, 52 df, P=0.025). Mean chick survival at fenced beaches was increased by 55% over that at unfenced beaches (t=1. 8, 52 df, P=0.077). Mean number of chicks fledged per pair of breeding piping plovers was higher inside the fences (t=2.0, 52 df, P=0.051) than at unfenced beaches.

Production inside fences was in the range (1.15-1.44 chicks per pair) calculated as necessary to maintain a stable piping plover population in the northern Great Plains. We recommend electric fences be used where piping plover reproductive success is limited by terrestrial predators.

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