CAPTIVA ISLAND, Fla. — Deep-tread tire tracks blanketed a half-dozen sea turtle nests Sunday after someone drove over and vandalized them, Florida wildlife officials said.
“It was reported that approximately six nests appeared to have been run over by a golf cart or similar vehicle,” Adam Brown, wildlife agency spokesman, told the News-Press. “Officers are actively investigating this incident and the FWC encourages anyone with information to call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 to report it.”
No eggs are believed to have been damaged, officials said. However, disturbing a sea turtle nest is a second-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, those involved could be fined up to $500 or face up to 60 days in jail, the News-Press reported.
The five sea turtle species that nest along Florida's coasts are all listed as endangered or threatened. The green, leatherback, hawksbill and Kemp's ridley turtles are listed as endangered. The loggerhead is considered threatened.
Vandalism to sea turtle nests is rare for the area.
"It's definitely not common," Kelly Sloan, with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, told the News-Press. "In seven years (with SCCF) I haven't seen anything like this. Its shocking. Generally, we have great community support. It's really disturbing that someone intentionally damaged the nests. We hope to find out who did it."
The island is having a record-setting nesting season with 255 nests so far. The previous record was 194 in 2016. The island even recorded a loggerhead nest earlier this year, a first.
Cox Media Group