Vandals damage shorebird nesting site, at least one nest destroyed

Vandals tore up a shorebird nesting site overnight Monday on the south end of Fort Myers Beach, destroying at least one nest of a protected species.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is in the early stages of an investigation, spokesman Gary Morse said today.

Sea turtle monitors and a vacationer reported finding about 50 stakes and twine marking the 10-acre site pulled out of the ground and tossed into the nesting area.

Eggs were found knocked out of one of the nests, which are laid in shallow, well camouflaged scrapes in the sand, Fort Myers Beach environmental sciences coordinator Keith Laakkonen said.

The vandals likely flushed birds from their nests, making the tiny eggs and chicks vulnerable to predators, he said. He said several chicks barely missed getting trampled.

“Some birds and some chicks got really lucky,” he said. “It’s a miracle more nests weren’t destroyed.”

Least terns, Wilson’s plovers and snowy plovers nest at the site. The terns and the Wilson’s plovers are threatened species in Florida. All three species are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Laakkonen said the area stays roped off until the birds leave, usually by August. This year, though, many birds began nesting later than usual.

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