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Five Loggerhead Turtle Nests Intentionally Destroyed In Florida

If suspects who destroyed the nests are found, fines of up to $100,000 and jail time is possible.

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Two people on a motorized vehicle on Anna Maria, Island. Fla. are wanted for questioning in relation to the destruction of five loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nests and the deaths of two black skimmer chicks during a joy ride on the beach over the weekend. According to MySunCoast ABC 7, the two suspects were apparently laughing as they intentionally aimed the vehicle at the nests, breaking the stakes that are used to cordon the area off from any type of traffic, foot or otherwise. 

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"According to witnesses, the people who were on the vehicle were laughing," said Suzi Fox, the executive director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring. "Witnesses report that they aimed for the nests. You could hear the breaking of the stakes. There were a lot of people on the beach at that time. People were screaming at them to stop. It's a miracle they didn't hit any people. I'm upset about the chicks and turtles, but I am more upset that a child could have been hurt and that is unacceptable for us. We protect nature but we protect our children first."

According to reports, the fine for destroying a single egg is $100, and there could be 500 eggs in those five nests. Authorities won’t know for sure until after any eggs hatch. If the nests are determined to have been damaged on purpose, and the suspects are found and convicted, civil penalties of up to $25,000 are possible and a criminal penalty of up to $100,000 plus a year in prison is possible.

The loggerhead sea turtle can grow to about 7 feet in length and reach a weight of approximately 300 pounds, though some have been recorded to reach well more than that. Its range includes the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The reptile reaches sexual maturity in as little as 17 (20 to 30 years is the norm) years and has an approximate lifespan of more than 60 years, though they are known to live longer. The loggerhead sea turtle feeds mainly on invertebrates, including sponges, shellfish, jellyfish, shrimp, squid, and sea urchins.

John B. Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a kingsnake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata