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Siesta Key snowy plover
Siesta Key Thursday, Mar. 28, 2019 11 months ago

Beachgoers damage Siesta nesting areas

Bird experts are urging the public to be mindful of protected sections of Sarasota beaches designed to accommodate wildlife.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

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.

Siesta Key bird enclosure
Kylie Wilson documented the damage done to a nesting enclosure on Siesta Beach this week. Although no nests were damaged in this incident, Wilson said it's crucial to be respectful of the marked areas.

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.”

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