FWC is monitoring vulnerable wildlife
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Media contact: Patricia Behnke, 850-251-2130; Carli Segelson, 727-896-8626
The potential arrival of oil from the Deepwater
Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is likely to pose
challenges for Florida's coastal wildlife. The Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is working closely with the
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Joint
Information Center, which includes the U.S. Coast Guard and
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as other
federal and state agencies to monitor potential impacts of the oil
spill on Florida.
The FWC is conducting pre-impact wildlife
assessments, which include taking water samples and testing for
contamination in sediments, fish and shellfish along Florida's
coastline and into the Gulf of Mexico. The FWC also is evaluating
critical habitat, shorebird and sea turtle nesting areas and other
wildlife. These assessments will assist wildlife managers to
determine potential impacts.
The FWC advises that coastal wildlife will be
vulnerable to impacts from oil reaching beaches. Shorebirds and
seabirds are in the middle of their nesting season, making them
extremely vulnerable to disturbance. Nesting season for sea turtles
is just beginning. Efforts to remove trash from the beaches before
the oil arrives could be disruptive to nesting animals, and the FWC
urges the public to follow specific guidelines.
The FWC has set up a Web page outlining appropriate
actions to protect nesting shorebirds, sea birds and other
vulnerable wildlife on Florida's beaches. The FWC is
providing information to the Emergency Operations Center and DEP
about wildlife areas that may be particularly vulnerable to impacts
from oil spills. In addition the FWC has developed best management
practices for avoiding impacts to Florida's endangered and
The FWC and its partners have posted signs on many,
but not all shorebird nesting areas. If birds in the area are
acting agitated, calling or swooping at people, there is a good
possibility it is a nesting area. The FWC asks the public and oil
spill responders to retreat the way they approached and leave the
Anyone involved in volunteer efforts to clear trash
from the beaches should be particularly careful. Please keep
the following in mind:
- Avoid working in areas where shorebirds are nesting; never
enter or approach a posted shorebird area.
- When near nesting areas, stay below the high tide (wrack) line.
Shorebirds nest on the open beach above this line. Nests are
scrapes in the sand and the eggs are small and camouflaged. They
easily can be crushed by pedestrians and vehicles.
- Remove only manmade trash. Seaweed and other natural debris are
critical to shorebirds.
- Even though the wrack line is important to wildlife, if it
becomes oiled it then becomes a death trap for birds and other
wildlife and makes removal of oil from the beach more difficult.
Timing for removal of beach wrack in oil spill response is
critical. It should be left on the beach in areas of active nesting
as long as possible but removed immediately prior to beaches
becoming oiled. In areas distant from active nesting, cleanup of
wrack and other natural debris can be performed to better
facilitate future oil removal.
- On some Panhandle beaches, the FWC has installed short, white,
PVC tubes in the dunes to track endangered beach mice, and on
Perdido Key, small aluminum boxes also are being used. This
important equipment should not be removed from the beach.
- Also, sea turtle nests are marked with stakes and orange tape -
do not remove these items because they help protect the nests from
- Do not place litter above the tide line; this can also
interfere or cause harm to nesting birds.
- Do not use equipment such as rakes, shovels or tractors.
- Do not bring dogs onto the beach. Dogs, even when
leashed, are very threatening to birds and cause them to
Please report any nest disturbances to 888-404-FWCC
(3922). To report sightings of oiled wildlife, call