In his more than 40 years of monitoring the wildlife on Fort De Soto Park, Jim Wilson the Park Supervisor has never documented a single case of a coyote digging up a nest and eating sea turtle eggs.
But, a few weeks ago Wilson saw just that.
“He was doing what coyotes do,” Wilson said. "And my first thought was how long he'd been there.”
Wilson scared the coyote off and found that the coyote ate 8 loggerhead sea turtle eggs. A mother turtle can lay 75 to 150 eggs per nest. Wilson said it won’t have a huge impact on the population or nest. But, it is a big concern.
“We don’t want him getting a taste for eggs,” Wilson said. “They are more a nuisance at hatching, then they are at nesting. Nests are going to start hatching up in the next week or two. So, we not only want to protect the new eggs coming in but also the hatchlings coming out, and our shorebirds are in the same situation.”
Loggerheads are listed as a vulnerable species. According to statistics, only 1 in 500 hatchlings will survive to become adults.
“It's a tough life when you are that small on the food chain,” Wison said. “Forty percent of the world’s population nest right here in Florida, so we play a huge part in the big picture.”
Wilson said the best case scenario is for the coyote to move to another hunting ground. But, if they are able to successfully track and capture the coyote he/she will be removed to a safe place where Wilson says the “coyote can do what coyotes do.”
Five species of sea turtle nest are in Florida. They are the hawksbill turtle, kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, leatherback, and green.