The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 16 No. 33 - June 15, 2016


Wildlife adapts after Colin

Carol Whitmore


Since the storm, mother turtles are coming
farther inland to make their nests, like this one.

The high winds and surf from Tropical Storm Colin took its toll on sea turtle nests, but the shorebirds, whose nests were reportedly wiped out by predators earlier, appear to be back again to try and hatch their eggs. Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox had something positive to say about the beaches on Anna Maria Island.

"Thank God for renourishment," she said. "If we hadn't added sand to the shores. We would have lost houses."

Fox said there is one thing about renourished beaches that make them stronger.

"The sand is denser and it holds together under high winds and water," she said. "They're more stable than before."

Fox said the storm wiped out 50 of the 70 marked nests on the beach, and the female turtles learned a lesson.

"The turtles nested closer to the water, but after the storm, we've had then come further up the beach to dig their nests," she said.

Fox asked beachgoers to be careful if they dig into the sand because some of the lost nests might still hatch.

Down at the Twin Piers replacement project, at Cortez Beach, the high surf tore away the fencing planted in the water to prevent turtles from nesting near the project. She said the contractor started working to replace it right after the storm.

Fox said it appears the shorebirds are looking to nest again, after cats ravaged a colony of them.

"We can't have cats destroying endangered birds," she said. "The good thing is they still have time to nest again, and we hope the cats don't return."

Fox said while it will take some time to recover from the tropical storm, she's sure the turtles and shorebirds can adapt.

"Mother Nature heals herself," she said.

Turtle Tips

Sunday, May 1 is the official start of sea turtle nesting season on Anna Maria Island, although the turtles sometimes begin nesting earlier.

For the next six months, imperiled female loggerhead and green sea turtles will be laying their eggs on the beaches at night, and their hatchlings will be making their way to the Gulf of Mexico.

During sea turtle season, May 1 – Oct. 31, please follow these tips:

• Turn off lights visible from the beach and close blinds from sundown to sunrise; lights confuse nesting sea turtles and may cause them to go back to sea and drop their eggs in the water, where they won't hatch. Light can also attract hatchlings away from the water.

• Don't use flashlights, light sticks, lanterns or camera or cell phone flashes on the beach at night.

• Remove all objects from the sand from sundown to sunrise, including chairs, boats, umbrellas, umbrella anchors and tents; they can deter sea turtles from nesting and disorient hatchlings.

• Fill in the holes you dig in the sand before leaving the beach; they can trap nesting and hatching sea turtles, which cannot live long out of the water.

• Don't use sky lanterns or fireworks; they litter the beach and Gulf.

• Do not trim trees and plants that shield the beach from lights.

• Correctly dispose of fishing line, so it won't entangle sea turtles and other animals.

• Stay clear of sea turtles and never touch them; it's the law. If you see people disturbing turtles, or see a sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtle, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Manatee Tips

• Obey posted signs for manatee slow-speed zones.

• Wear polarized sunglasses to see manatees in your path.

• If you observe a manatee mating herd - several manatees gathered as males vie to mate with a female - watch from at least 100 feet away. Coming any closer might disrupt the mating or endanger you; adult manatees typically weigh more than 1,000 pounds.

• Never feed or water manatees as they will become habituated to people, which could put them at risk of injury.

• Stow trash and line when underway. Marine debris that blows overboard can become ingested by or entangled around manatees.

• Report stranded or dead manatees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).

Bird tips

During bird nesting season, March through August, please follow these tips:

• Never touch a shorebird chick, even if it's wandering outside a staked nesting area.

• Teach kids not to chase birds – bird parents may abandon nests if they're disturbed.

• Don't feed birds – it encourages them to fly at people aggressively and is not good for their health.

• If birds are screeching and flying at you, you're too close.

• Avoid posted bird nesting areas and use designated walkways to the beach.

• Keep pets away from bird nesting areas.

• Keep the beach clean; food scraps attract predators such as raccoons and crows to the beach, and litter can entangle birds and other wildlife.

• If you see people disturbing nesting birds, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Dolphin Tips


• Stay at least 50 yards away from dolphins when viewing from a vessel or watercraft.

• Limit time spent observing dolphins to 30 minutes or less.

• Avoid making loud or sudden noises near dolphins.

• Move away slowly if a dolphin's behavior indicates the animal is stressed or disturbed.

• Look Before You Book! Book wild dolphin viewing tours with businesses that responsibly view dolphins in the wild and help dolphin conservation. See Facebook "Don't Feed Wild Dolphins" and "Dolphin SMART."

• Put your vessel's engine in neutral if in the close vicinity of dolphins.

• Call for help if you hook a dolphin on a fishing line or see a stranded or injured dolphin - Mote Marine's Stranding Investigations Program, 941-988-0212.


• Pursue, swim with, pet or touch wild dolphins, even if they approach you.

• Feed or attempt to feed wild dolphins.

• Encircle or entrap dolphins with vessels.

• Direct a vessel or accelerate toward dolphins with the intent of creating a pressure wake to bow or wake-ride.

• Separate mother/calf pairs.

• Drive watercraft through or over groups of dolphins.

Nesting news

Sea turtles

Nests laid: 112

False crawls: 238

Nests hatched: 0

Nests not hatched: 50

Hatchlings to Gulf: 0

Nests remaining: 62

Source: Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring

Adopt a turtle nest

Loggerhead sea turtle nests are up for adoption on Anna Maria Island beaches, to commemorate weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, lost loved ones or just for the love of nature. The 11-year-old program raises funds for Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring. For a tax deductible donation of $100, adoptive parents receive the adoption plaque that was posted on the nest, a video of the nest, data from the nest, such as how many turtles hatched and when, and a letter of appreciation. To adopt, visit

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