SIESTA KEY, FLA. - We first told you earlier this week how someone drove a motorcycle through protected nest sites and destroyed eggs on Siesta Key. Now the vandal has hit again, this time pulling down the boundary markers and piling them in the center of the nesting site.
Bob Luckner is part of the Sarasota Audubon chick watch program. He helps identify and protect sensitive shorebird nesting sites on Siesta Key.
"Something is going on. Somebody has a burr under their saddle right now,” Luckner told ABC 7.
The burr he is referring to is the vandalization and destruction of eggs of protected nesting shore birds four times within a week.
"Thursday night somebody ran a two wheel motorcycle right through the middle of the least tern and snowy plover colony, destroyed the buffer and in process destroyed about a dozen least tern eggs," Luckner says.
On Monday the vandals struck again, this time using a four wheel vehicle to drive through the nest sites.
"You can tell it was on purpose because they piled up all the buffer material in the middle of the buffer here,” said Luckner.
Volunteers replaced the boundary markers and signage Tuesday morning only to have it pulled down for a third and forth time.
"Tuesday night, somebody came back on foot and torn down all this buffer. Last night somebody came by and torn down half of this buffer and torn down part of the buffer behind [over there,]” he said pointing to another protected area of the beach.
The FWC is investigating the vandalism. They want anyone who witnesses someone harassing or trespassing through the nest sites to call their wildlife alert hotline number at 1-888-404-FWCC.
Luckner says disturbing a nesting site can lead to serious penalties.
"It is a violation of a third degree felony to disturb, that means, not kill but even just flush them off their nests of state law so it is a big fine and jail time."
The public is able to share the beach with the birds during nesting season but if the status of the birds becomes changed to endangered, the beach could be shut down.
"In New Jersey, a cousin of these birds -- the piping plover -- has actually caused the beaches to be closed during the breeding season. We don't want that. We like the sharing of it out here," Luckner says.
He says that is why it is important to make sure least terns and snowy plovers that nest on the Suncoast are protected so their species will flourish.
"Somewhere between five and 10 percent of the whole state's population of nesting snowy plovers is right here so it is an important area.”
The Sarasota Aududon is looking for additional chick watch volunteers to help protect the nest sites during the July 4th weekend. If you want to participate you can email email@example.com for more information.