Nearly a year after nests of a threatened bird species caused a Siesta Key beach-access point to close, another nest in the same area may have been intentionally destroyed.
Volunteers reported last week that footprints show someone walked out of their way to step on and crush two snowy plover eggs.
The volunteers said the person took direct steps off the path to step on the eggs and then returned to the path.
Snowy plovers are a threatened species. They’re tiny birds that blend in so well with Siesta Key’s white sand that their nests are virtually invisible.
The last comprehensive count of snowy plovers was four years ago, and it revealed that there were only about 200 breeding pairs in Florida, with just 60 pairs making their home along the Gulf Coast.
Twice last May, beachgoers destroyed, possibly intentionally, a nest at Beach Access No. 7, which is at Beach Road and Calle de la Siesta.
As a result, the beach-access point was closed until September when the eggs from that nest and other nearby nests hatched.
The county has committed to closing any beach-access point if a plover nest would be endangered by keeping it open.
The parks and recreation department said that it plans to keep all beach accesses open at this point, but it will keep reevaluating the situation.
Because the eggs of a threatened species were harmed, an investigation will be conducted, but Commissioner Jon Thaxton said without clear evidence of who crushed the eggs, an investigation will be quick.
“It’s not like ‘CSI,’” he said.
Before becoming a county commissioner, Thaxton used to be a field volunteer during such investigations.
“If the damage is intentional, you’re typically dealing with a hateful person,” he said. “It’s usually a disgruntled person who has been affected by the measures protecting the animals.”
County officials who have inspected the site said it isn’t clear if the damage was intentional.
Steps will be taken to better mark all plover nests with stakes and ropes.
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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