Bird experts are urging the public to be mindful of protected sections of Sarasota beaches designed to accommodate wildlife.
Three times in the past week, Kylie Wilson has found a disturbing sight on Siesta Beach: Someone had vandalized enclosures set up to protect snowy plover nests.
As bird monitoring and stewardship program coordinator for the Sarasota chapter of Audubon Florida, Wilson checks up on sections of local beaches that have been cordoned off in an effort to ensure the safety of protected bird species during nesting season. Lately, on Siesta Key, she’s seen a spike in the number of marked areas that have been damaged.
“The posts had been pulled up,” Wilson said of the most recent incident. “The string had been pulled off and tossed aside.”
Wilson has contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission about the issue, the agency responsible for oversight of the nesting areas. She’s also spoken to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, who indicated the issue could be associated with spring breakers from northern states visiting the beach.
Hoping to discourage this behavior from continuing in the future, Wilson is working to raise awareness of the importance of the bird enclosures. Snowy plovers and other native species are threatened by human activity in the areas where they nest. (They’re also threatened by other animals: Wilson said dogs, which are prohibited on most county beaches, can create problems around nesting enclosures.)
Giving the birds clearance is crucial for ensuring chicks can hatch undisturbed.
“Respect a posted area,” Wilson said. “Go around a posted area; don’t go in the posted area.”