On June 22, Mote Marine Laboratory's Sea Turtle Patrol submitted a report to FWC after finding vehicle tracks over eight nests.
Eight sea turtle nests were damaged when a small vehicle drove over them on Siesta Key Beach last week, officials from Mote Marine Laboratory said.
Mote submitted a report to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation on Friday after its Sea Turtle Patrol found the damaged nests and tracks.
The Sea Turtle Patrol found tracks from a golf cart or all-terrain vehicle and reported that the vehicle had dislodged stakes marking existing nests and drove across a new, unmarked nest, Mote’s statement said.
No damage to eggs was found during Mote’s initial inspection, however the statement said it is difficult to assess potential damage without further disturbing the nests.
FWC officers conducted an initial investigation, which lacked enough evidence to be conclusive. Sea turtles are protected under federal and state laws. Harming the animals or their nests or eggs can result in fines or jail time.
“It’s illegal for people to damage, disturb or destroy sea turtle nests, including nest-marking materials such as stakes, and the penalties increase for each egg damaged,” FWC Public Information Officer Brian Norris said in the statement. “We would appreciate any more information that people can provide, and we also want people to learn from this incident and recognize that sea turtles and their nests are protected under the law.”
Sea turtle nesting season began on May 1 and continues until Oct. 31. Residents and visitors should not approach turtle nests or hatchlings or shine lights on them. The stakes and flagging tape on the nests should also not be touched.
“We are disappointed to see this kind of destruction – especially to know that it likely took place at night, when the perpetrators could have easily driven over hatchlings or hit a nesting sea turtle,” Coquina Homer, biological technician at Mote, said in the statement. “We go to a lot of effort to protect sea turtles, which are threatened species. We hope that members of the public learn from this incident and help to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Mote reminds residents and visitors to remain quiet and observe nests and turtles from a distance and to shield or turn off outdoor lights. Beach furniture should be stacked and put away when guests leave the beach and any holes in the sand should be filled in.
Mote is asking anyone with information regarding this incident to call FWC’s wildlife alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC.