Dogs disturbing sea turtle nests at beach
Loose dogs have been disturbing sea turtle nests in south Jacksonville Beach in the last several weeks.
So far, about a half-dozen nests and about a dozen and a half eggs have been lost as a result of curious canines.
"Paw prints, some digging that's been done in there," said Jennifer Burns, of Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol. "It's very disheartening because we take so many steps to protect these nests and keep them safe. We use a lot of materials. Sometimes the material is destroyed and we have to replace that as well."
At last count, BSTP has 90 nests, which is a record for it. Its previous record was 62.
Burns said she hopes it's due to BSTP's efforts that started back in the 1980s to protect the species. Burns said patrollers don't know where the dogs are coming from, if they are stray or with an owner who doesn't care. Either way, the dogs are destroying their efforts to help the sea turtle nests and eggs.
"Every nest absolutely counts," Burns said. "The scientists estimate that only one in 1,000 hatchlings will reach adulthood.
Burns adds that the endangered sea turtles don't reach reproductive age until 15-20 years after hatching, and from the time they're placed in the sand when they hatch, trying to make their way out to sea and develop all of those years, their survival rate is very low.
At Jacksonville Beach, dogs are only allowed on the beach before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. They must be on a leash at all times. The leash can be no longer than eight feet. Dogs must have a rabies inoculation tag attached to their collar, and dog owners must dispose of their dog's "droppings" properly.
At Atlantic Beach, dogs are allowed on the beach during the day and evening. They must be on leash, which can't be longer than 12 feet, unless both adult and pet are in the water together. Pet owners must pick up and remove dog waste from the beach and dispose of it properly.
At Neptune Beach, dogs are prohibited to be on the beach with or without a leash from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. During Daylight Saving Time, the hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.
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