FWC looking for suspect after someone threw firework into black skimmer nesting area

An investigation is underway after someone set off a firework inside a black skimmer nesting area on St. Pete Beach

In the last week, there have been at least two incidents of vandalism reported against the birds inside nesting areas. Tuesday night, someone removed multiple posts that acted as a barrier to the area.

Those who work to protect nesting shorebirds say it's hard to understand why anyone would go to great lengths to harm this innocent wildlife.

"It really is heartbreaking in my opinion just because these birds have nowhere else to go," said Holley Short with Audubon Florida, a non-profit dedicated to protecting Florida's birds.

The month of May is the mating season for black skimmers. This year, about 400 of them settled on a section of St. Pete Beach to mate and lay eggs, but last Wednesday their nesting area was disturbed. 

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) says someone set off a firework in the center of the roped-off area, ripped up wooden posts and threw the signage and ropes in the center of the nesting area.

"Disturbances like those fireworks can cause the skimmers to abandon their eggs and leave them vulnerable and exposed," Short said.

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Short said because of last week's incident, crows were able to eat the eggs. That means the mating process has to restart for a group of birds already considered a protected species.

"These eggs are so important to get to that hatching stage. It takes months for these eggs to hatch and then another month for these chicks to be able to fly," Short said.

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It's why Audubon Florida goes to great measures to protect them, roping off the area with clear signage informing beachgoers not to disturb the nesting area.

So far, FWC is still working to track down the vandals. Short hopes the people or person behind it will have a little more compassion and think twice the next time they encounter an already vulnerable species.

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"It's important to protect the wildlife to be able to enjoy it for future generations," Short said.

Anyone with information about what happened is asked to call FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-800-404-3922.