Public asked to take care to share Sarasota County’s beaches with nesting birds and turtles

County staffer offers recommendations for protecting wildlife

A snowy plover rests on Siesta Key. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

As summer approaches and trips to the beach become even more frequent, Sarasota County staff is reminding all visitors and residents to share the shore with native wildlife.

Beach-goers are asked to be mindful of sea turtle nesting season, which began May 1, and of shorebirds such as snowy plovers and black skimmers, which use the open beach to lay their eggs, a news release points out.

In addition, beach users are reminded that dogs easily can damage sea turtle nests and scare away shorebird nesting, as Keri Ferenc Nelson, a wildlife specialist for the county, notes.

“Whether leashed or unleashed, walking dogs on the beach can be one of the most disruptive influences on shorebird nesting,” said Ferenc Nelson in the release. “When shorebirds are disturbed, they can flee and leave their eggs and chicks vulnerable to predators or extreme summer heat,” she added in the release.

Dogs are welcome at the Brohard Beach and Paw Park, located at 1600 Harbor Drive in Venice, the release points out.

The following are ways the public can help protect sea turtles and their habitat and be in compliance with the law, Ferenc Nelson notes:

  • Each night, remove all furniture and recreational items from the beach and store them in an area free of sand and dune vegetation.
  • Properly dispose of trash. Sea turtles ingest plastic bags, and garbage attracts predators that eat shorebird eggs.
  • Knock down sand sculptures and fill in holes before you leave the beach so turtles have direct access into and out of the water. A turtle that falls into a hole cannot get out.
  • Use amber or red LED flashlights if you need light on the beach at night.
  • Enjoy recreation in locations away from marked nesting areas.
A sea turtle nest is roped off and posted on Turtle Beach in 2011. File photo

In addition, property owners must replace white incandescent, fluorescent and high-intensity lighting with amber or red light-emitting diodes (LED) or low-pressure sodium vapor (LPS) fixtures or yellow, bug-type bulbs, the release says. “All fixtures emitting light visible from the beach must be fully shielded and angled so the light is directed down and away from the beach,” the release stresses. “Each year, thousands of turtle hatchlings die from predation, exhaustion and starvation due to the disorientation caused by bright lights.”

Have questions or need assistance with adjusting the lighting on your property? Contact the Sea Turtle Protection Program at 861-5000 or visit and enter the keywords “sea turtle.”