A beach joyride could lead to federal charges. Authorities want to know who drove a vehicle through some sea turtle nests on Siesta Key.
Not far from the aptly named Turtle Beach, there was trouble in paradise.
Early Friday morning, Mote researchers encountered tire markings over eight sea turtle nests.
“It’s frustrating,” said Mote Marine lab senior biologist Melissa Bernhard.
She says its possible the vehicle also ran over brand new nests that hadn’t been marked yet.
Whoever did this was likely driving a golf cart or ATV and this criminal could have broken the eggs buried beneath.
“They don’t have that hard exterior shell that like chicken eggs have that a lot of people are familiar with, they just have a leathery skin, so they are pretty prone to crushing and popping,” said Bernhard.
It’s difficult to tell the full extent of the damage without further disturbing the nests.
“There’s just no words and I can actually cry right now and when I think about it, it’s just heartbreaking,” said beachgoer Lenore Zupko.
Zupko comes out to Turtle Beach every day to admire the natural beauty. She feels we all need to be more aware of our place in this living ecosystem.
“This is their habitat, we’re here actually, like visiting, in a way,” said Zupko.
She hopes this suspect is caught and the public learns a lesson.
“Any creature, any life is precious,” she said.
Whoever did this could face fines or even jail time. If you have information about this incident, please call FWC’s wildlife alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC.