Why is the CWCI concerned about disturbance?
Human activities are often in conflict with coastal wildlife species, and conflicts increase as Florida’s population continues to grow. Some activities, such as development or beach nourishment, have a direct and visible impact on the beach and wildlife. Other activities, which seem harmless, such as walking dogs or flying kites, also have direct impacts but are often less visible to the public.
These impacts are disturbances - temporary actions that alter the natural feeding, breeding, resting or sheltering behavior of wildlife. Ongoing and persistent disturbance of wildlife is as serious a problem as the direct loss of habitat, and leads to wildlife population declines.
Human activities on Florida’s beaches may negatively impact coastal wildlife in the following manner:
- Degradation of habitat
- Increased exposure to predators
- Decreased reproductive success
- Increased energy expenditure resulting in reduced survival
- Reduced foraging opportunities
What action is the CWCI taking to reduce disturbance?
The CWCI works with other FWC staff and partners to inform the public of areas that are at increased risk from human or pet disturbance. Sometimes these areas are posted with signage directing people to keep their distance from wildlife.
The CWCI can also work with local eco-tourism operators to teach their clients about the potential impacts of their actions on wildlife. For example, kayak outfitters can warn their clients of areas where birds tend to congregate and tell them to stay at least 300 feet away.
In addition, the CWCI is working to address specific types of disturbance, such as dogs on the beach. Although dogs are allowed on some beaches, it is important to be aware that many beaches do not allow dogs, such as those at State Parks or within designated Critical Wildlife Areas. It is also important to consider the wildlife that live and raise their young on Florida beaches—wildlife that may not be compatible with the presence of dogs. Shorebird and sea turtle nests and young can be impacted by dogs on the beach – even leashed dogs can affect wildlife simply by their presence. The best way to protect wildlife is to leave your dog at home when you go to the beach. If pet owners do bring dogs to beaches where that is allowed, they should still be mindful of wildlife and follow all rules about leashing their dogs and picking up waste. The CWCI developed a Dogs on the Beach brochure in response to an expressed need from partners to have outreach materials to share when they talk to people about dogs on beaches.