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Lake McConaughy Visitors Reminded to Share Sand with Terns and Plovers

LINCOLN, Neb. – Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area’s (SRA) visitors are being reminded to give interior least terns and piping plovers their space as beaches will become crowded over the upcoming holiday weekends.
“It is a critical period for these birds because not only are some pairs still on nests, but other pairs are tending to broods,” said Colby Johnson, Lake McConaughy Park Superintendent. “Park visitors can help protect the birds and ensure that we can strike the right balance between human recreation and endangered species conservation.”
Visitors are asked to follow these steps:
— Do not enter marked or fenced-off nesting areas.
— When possible, stay clear of areas clearly marked for the birds
— Obey all signs.
— Keep all pets on leashes.
In addition to the above, visitors are reminded that all-terrain vehicles are not allowed on Lake McConaughy’s beaches. With stepped-up enforcement occurring over the holiday period, violators should be aware of the increased possibility of being cited.
Interior least terns and piping plovers are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Act. Persons killing, harming, disturbing or harassing these birds, or allowing their pets to do so, can be prosecuted under the law. Maximum penalties are up to a $100,000 fine and up to one year in jail or both. “The recreational opportunities we’ll be able to provide at Lake McConaughy will be linked to our collective capacity to avoid conflicts between birds and recreation,” Johnson added.
Piping plovers and interior least terns nest together on expanses of bare or sparsely vegetated sand near water. Nests blend in perfectly; the eggs appear not much more than small rocks and both species’ tiny chicks are similarly camouflaged and vulnerable, a problem when prime nesting habitat is also attractive to people for recreation.
Lake McConaughy is one of the state’s most important nesting areas for Piping Plovers. The number of nesting pairs is variable, ranging from a couple dozen to a couple hundred. The number of nesting pairs is linked to the amount of available habitat. Only a small number of Interior Least Terns nest annually at Lake McConaughy. The nesting season for both species extends from mid-April to mid-August. Efforts to protect the birds are led by the lake’s Owner, Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District.
Lake McConaughy SRA is a popular Nebraska recreation destination for beach-goers, campers, anglers and boaters. The park was visited by over one million people last year.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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