Sunday, August 17, 2014

Rare birds scared off by nudists at wildlife refuge

Passage Key in Florida is a popular hotspot for nudists located between Anna Maria Island and Egmont Key. For 50 years, the small island has been a federally protected habitat for nesting birds. The US Fish and Wildlife Service says there are a number of rare species there ranging from royal terns, to black skimmers, to oystercatchers. A spokesman for the FWS says in 2006, the island became completely submerged because of Hurricane Alberto.

But in the past few months, the sandbar returned - along with birds, and nudists. The island has been popular for nudists recently, with reports of more than 200 nudists on the small island. The FWS claims this is disrupting rare birds and scaring them off. A FWS spokesperson says it is a federal crime to walk on the island, saying nudists are allowed to wade in the water off-shore, but are prohibited by law from being on the island.

Federal officials monitor Passage Key on the weekends, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission helps with monitoring during the week. However, the island is remote and it's impossible to patrol the island seven days a week. Federal officials urge tourists and nudists to stay off the island. Signs have been posted urging nudists to follow the law and stay off the beach, but officials say more needs to be done to stop the nudists from bothering these nesting birds.

YouTube link.

Dozens of different kinds of species nest there this time of year. Bird nesting season lasts from April to late August. The spokesman for the federal agency says in the spring, FWS officials will discuss what changes need to be made to better protect the nesting birds. Punishments for disrupting the habitats vary depending on the rarity of the bird species. Some offenders could be issued fines or given jail time.

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