Wildlife needs your help
Cindy Lane | Sun
Manatees often carry the scars of
careless boaters on their backs.
Please slow down in manatee zones.
Anna Maria Island is a great place to enjoy wildlife, and there are many ways you can help make sure that flora and fauna will be here to enjoy this time next year, and long into the future.
It’s sea turtle season from May 1 to Oct. 31, when threatened loggerhead turtles lay their nests and hatchlings burst out of them, making a break for the Gulf of Mexico, dodging predators from the air and the water.
You can help them by turning off or shielding interior and exterior lights after dark, not using flashlights or camera flashes around sea turtles and by removing everything from the beach at night; objects can hinder nesting turtles and hatchlings.
A threatened land animal, gopher tortoises nest in tunnels in sea oats and sand dunes, occasionally taking slow strolls on the beach.
You can help them by not following them or picking them up, and being careful not to walk on dunes, which can destroy their burrows.
These endangered mammals, Manatee County’s namesake, often are scarred by boat propellers.
You can help them by slowing down your boat in manatee zones, and not petting them, riding them, feeding them, giving them water from a hose, herding them toward shore or interfering with them when they’re mating. Dolphins
These wild mammals are everyone’s favorite sight, leaping from the water at play and sometimes following boats.
You can help them by discarding fishing line in recycling bins, by not fishing in areas where dolphins are actively feeding and by not feeding them, which increases their risk of injury from boats and entanglement in fishing line.
This species of special concern plunges into the water to feed and glides in “v” formations overhead.
You can help them by not feeding them, which makes them dependent on people, leading to fishing hook injuries and entanglements in fishing line.
Threatened snowy plovers and least terns, and black skimmers, a species of special concern, nest right on the sandy beaches, blending into the sand.
You can help them by not chasing them, feeding them or flying kites around them, which birds perceive as predators, and by walking around posted nesting areas.
Shells are homes for living creatures such as hermit crabs, snails and coquinas, and some are living creatures themselves, such as protected sand dollars and starfish.
You can help them by not taking any shells that have animals inside, especially rare bay scallops and queen conchs, and taking only two white sand dollars (not living brown and fuzzy ones) and hard starfish (not living flexible ones) a day.
Protected sea oats build and preserve sand dunes, preventing flooding and erosion and providing wildlife habitat and food.
You can help them by walking around dunes, keeping children from digging in dunes and not cutting the stalks for dried flower arrangements.
Protected sea grapes provide shade and purple grapes for birds, wildlife and people.
You can help them by not trimming them in their growing season, especially during turtle season when they shield the beaches from light, and trimming no more than a third of their height each year.
These animals and plants on Anna Maria Island are protected by state and federal law for good reasons. Please help keep them safe for the next generation, theirs and ours.