Rare birds disrupted by nudists on wildlife refuge

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. —

A wildlife refuge is now a popular destination for nudists, and some rare birds that inhabit the area off the coast of Saint Petersburg are being disturbed, wildlife officials said.

Passage Keys has been a federally protected habitat for nesting birds for 50 years.

However, recently the island has become a popular nudist destination.

State wildlife officials claim it is disrupting the rare birds and scaring them off.

"This is their home. This is a bird sanctuary on Anna Maria Island. We're blessed to be able to live here and build homes here, but ultimately this belongs to them," resident Laurie Higgins said.

A state wildlife spokesperson said it is a federal crime to walk on the island, but nudists are allowed to wade in the water off-shore.

Officials plan to meet in the spring to discuss what changes need to be made to better protect the nesting birds.