Least Terns Nesting
Thousands of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and other wetland dependent animals have claimed a 463-acre wildlife management area near Duke Energy’s Gibson Generating Station in Indiana as their own. The Cane Ridge Wildlife Management Area, located south of the Gibson Generating Station, is also home to one of the largest colonies of the federally endangered interior least tern east of the Mississippi River.
The Cane Ridge Area includes a 60-acre pond with two islands designed specifically to attract least terns. Each island is three acres in area, covered with gravel, and protected from land predators by solar-powered, electrified fencing.
Immediately following the construction of the first two nesting islands in 2005, the terns colonized the area, nested and fledged at least 50 chicks. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the tern islands have fledged an average of 42 chicks per year since 2009. That’s good news, because there are only about 17,000 interior least terns (2005 survey) still in existence. Duke Energy is out to see that this colony is protected.
The least terns began nesting at Gibson Station in the mid 1980’s. What began as a small colony has grown into one of the largest nesting areas for the least tern east of the Mississippi River. The Cane Ridge Wildlife Management Area provides ideal nesting habitat for the terns. It also provides great habitat for many other species of wildlife.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife statistics show that in addition to the terns, around 300 other bird species have been documented at Cane Ridge including the federally endangered wood stork and whooping crane. Surveys have produced high one- day counts of more than 12,000 ducks and 100,000 snow geese. The area also provides habitat for other endangered species, including the swamp rabbit and copper-bellied water snake.
Plans for the project began in 1997 when Duke Energy biologists met with three individuals to discuss the possibilities of converting the acreage adjacent to Gibson Station into a wildlife habitat. Funding and support for the project came from numerous federal, state and local agencies and private partners: Duke Energy; the Natural Resource Conservation Service; the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Ducks Unlimited; the Southwest Indiana Four Rivers Project Committee-North American Waterfowl Management Plan; Gibson County Coal Company; the Indiana Department of Natural Resources-Division of Fish and Wildlife, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; and McCormick Farms.
Dedicated in August 2006, the Cane Ridge Wildlife Area is owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.