Coyote raids at least five sea turtle nests on Tybee Island

Published: Aug. 7, 2022 at 3:36 PM EDT
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - Tybee Island has had a record breaking year when it comes to turtle nests on the island and as of right now there are 35.

The DNR says a coyote has gotten into five of the island’s nests. One of which, was completely destroyed and eaten through.

The DNR knows a coyote is responsible because they have evidence. A picture shows a coyote next to a turtle nest marked off with yellow tape. Because they’ve only seen one set of tracks, the DNR figures it’s acting alone.

Mark Dodd with the Georgia DNR said on developed beaches, like Tybee, finding a food source on the beach is usually a last resort.

“This year was the first time we’ve ever seen any predation of sea turtle nests by coyotes on Tybee,” said Dodd.

While it might be the first time it’s happened on Tybee, Dodd said it is something they see every year as soon as hatching season starts.

“Predators locate nests and the number of nests that are predated increases,” said Dodd.

Dodd says right now there are roughly 4,000 nests along Georgia’s coast.

“Statewide we’ve lost only four nests to coyotes.”

One of which was on Tybee. The coyote, on Tybee, also got into four other nests but Dodd said they weren’t a total loss.

“A loggerhead sea turtle nest has, on average, about 115 eggs and a coyote might take 30 or 40,” said Dodd.

Coyotes are certainly not the only sea turtle nest predator. This year, across the state Dodd said about 120 nests were lost to feral hogs.

So, to help stop further predation volunteers on Tybee took down the yellow tape. Dodd said they’re concerned it’s helping the coyote determine where the nests are.

“We want to remove all that and leave one stake, maybe not in the same spot so they can’t actually use the stakes to locate and depredate the nests,” said Dodd.

Dodd said they put screening over the nests instead. He said it’s an effective method.

“The standard methods we use to protect sea turtle nests from coyotes on some of the islands they’re trapped or hunted, actually physically removed from the beach, which we don’t really have those options on Tybee because of all of the people on the beach at night.”

The DNR said coyotes are generally not a threat to humans, so people shouldn’t panic.

If someone does happen to come across one the DNR said to give them a call and they will take the appropriate action.

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