By Miguel Montalvo

A sea turtle nest was damaged July 5 on Nokomis Beach by suspected poachers; three individuals dug into a nest marked with stakes and left one broken egg on its surface. It is not clear whether they took any eggs.

Two members of Mote Marine Laboratory’s nighttime sea turtle tagging team saw the perpetrators digging into the nest at around 1:30 a.m. July 5. As the tagging team got closer, the individuals filled their hole, ran away, and could not be identified. Mote reported the incident to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which investigates wildlife law violations.

The nest was originally discovered and marked with wooden stakes and flagging tape two weeks earlier by Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program, which documents sea turtle nesting activity along 35 miles of Sarasota County beaches. The program marks nests for research and protection, helping beachgoers recognize and respect them.

All species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered and are protected under federal and state laws as well as local ordinances. Harming sea turtles, their eggs or nests, including nest-marking materials, is illegal and may result in serious fines or even jail time.

According to Mote Senior Biologist Melissa Bernhard, intentional poaching of sea turtle nests is rare in Mote’s monitoring area, Longboat Key through Venice, but accidental damage and vandalism are more common. Last month Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol found eight sea turtle nests damaged by an all-terrain vehicle or golf cart on Siesta Key and reported the case to law enforcement officials.

Mote urges the public to respect and protect sea turtles and their nests. If you suspect that someone is tampering with a sea turtle nest, harassing a sea turtle or has possession of a sea turtle or any of its parts, please call FWC’s wildlife alert hotline (888-404-FWCC (3922)) or your local sheriff’s department.

If you see a sick, injured or stranded sea turtle in Sarasota or Manatee county waters, contact Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program at 888-345-2335. Outside of Sarasota or Manatee counties, please call FWC’s wildlife alert hotline.

For more information about Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program and for additional turtle friendly tips, visit: