FWC investigating damage to sea turtle nests on Captiva
The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating six sea turtle nests that appear to have been run over by a golf cart or similar vehicle on Captiva, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation reported.
“We’re all really disheartened that anyone would intentionally cause harm to our sea turtles. I’ve been with SCCF for seven turtle seasons and have never seen such disregard for our nests,” Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan said on July 27. “Our community and visitors are generally so supportive of our efforts to protect our sea turtles.”
SCCF Sea Turtle Volunteer Stefanie Plein was on her morning patrol on July 26 when she reported tire tracks and stakes damaged on five loggerhead nests. Sloan reported the incident to the FWC.
“This morning, we received two calls to our Sea Turtle Hotline – one from a resident and one from a visitor – notifying us of extensive damage to another loggerhead nest, where stakes were removed and thrown into the dune and it was likely driven over,” Sloan said.
Officers are actively investigating the incident and the FWC encourages anyone with information to call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.
The SCCF reported that the Lee County Sheriff’s office is assisting in the investigation. It is illegal to drive a motorized vehicle on Captiva’s beach without a permit.
“We are working with the proper authorities and ask anyone with information to please help in their investigation,” Sloan said. “The turtles remain our top concern at this time and we hope none of the eggs were damaged. We won’t find out until they hatch and then we will inventory the nests.”
All Florida sea turtle species are listed as endangered or threatened. The federal Endangered Species Act lists the green, leatherback, hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley turtle as endangered; the loggerhead is listed as threatened. This makes it illegal to harm, harass or kill sea turtles, their eggs or hatchlings.
According to the SCCF, Captiva is having a record-breaking loggerhead nesting season, with 255 nests as of July 27. The previous record was 194 nests in 2016.
To report issues with nests, nesting turtles, or hatchlings, contact the SCCF’s Sea Turtle Hotline at 978-728-3663. For more information on SCCF’s program, visit www.sccf.org/our-work/sea-turtles.