provided to Santiva Chronicle
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 over the weekend on Captiva.
“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,” said Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan. “Our community and visitors are generally so supportive of our efforts to protect our sea turtles.”
Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation Sea Turtle Volunteer Stephanie Plein was on her morning patrol Sunday when she reported tire tracks and stakes damaged on five loggerhead sea turtle nests on Captiva. Sloan immediately 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.
Since all five Florida sea turtles are listed as either endangered or threatened, it is illegal to harm, harass or kill any sea turtles, their eggs or hatchlings. Officers are actively investigating this incident and the FWC encourages anyone with information to call its Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.
It is also illegal to operate a motor vehicle on Captiva’s beach without a permit, so the Lee County Sheriff’s Office is assisting in the investigation
“We are working with the proper authorities and ask anyone with information to please help in their investigation,” said Sloan. “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.”
Captiva is having a record-breaking loggerhead nesting season, with 255 nests so far. The previous record was 194 nests in 2016. Any issues with nests, nesting turtles, or hatchlings can be reported to the SCCF Sea Turtle Hotline at 978-728-3663.
UPDATE: The Linsmayer family has chosen to turn this devastating news into a rallying cry for continued care and monitoring of nesting sea turtles on Sanibel and Captiva. They have pledged a generous gift towards Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation’s coastal wildlife monitoring costs and hope other concerned islanders will join them. Make a donation to SCCF here.
However, a monetary donation is not the only way to make a difference. SCCF has suggested the following ways:
Talk to friends and family about their behaviors and the effect on marine wildlife
Never leave beach furniture or anything on the beach at night, when nests hatch and females lay nests. Fill in any holes in the sand, so hatchlings do not become stuck as they make their way to the water
Make sure to respect lighting ordinances, so the glow of the lights do not disorient the hatchlings as they make their way to the Gulf of Mexico. This includes pulling the blinds to shield interior lights and turning off exterior lights visible from the beach after the sun goes down. Additionally, do not use flashlilghts or cell phone lights, common among shellers, on the beach after dark.
Pick up fishing line and other plastic on the beach and dispose of it properly. Buy sustainable seafood that does not endanger sea turtles – pole and line tuna for instance
SCCF is dedicated to the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed. For more information on SCCF’s sea turtle program click here.