Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

Initial Wildlife Impacts of Hurricane Ian

October 13, 2022
While assisting with search and rescue efforts on Sanibel, SCCF staff members sighted several turtle species post-Hurricane Ian, including a peninsula cooter (Pseudemys peninsular), pictured above, a Florida box turtle (Terrapene bauri), a striped mud turtle (Kinosternon baurii), and multiple gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus).
“These survivors show that even after a drastic event like this, many wildlife species can endure,” said SCCF Wildlife and Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz. His team will be investigating the effects of saltwater intrusion in freshwater wetlands. “Some species will benefit, some will struggle, and others will remain relatively unaffected,” he said. Several Florida softshell turtles (Apalone ferox) have been found deceased near or on roads, likely from saltwater intrusion.
Image of bird on beach
Not only are all SCCF staff safe and accounted for following Hurricane Ian, but we’ve also received word that five of our tagged snowy plovers (Chardrius nivosus) survived the storm. YB, pictured here, was spotted in South Pinellas County, and Ms. Sanibel and LL were sighted in Sarasota County. “We’ve also received word that White Blue was sighted on Honeymoon Island State Park and Light Blue Green in Naples,” said SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht.
On Bunche Beach, the SCCF shorebird team has also observed piping plovers (Chardrius melodus), Forster’s terns (Sterna forsteri), and Wilson’s plovers (Charadrius wilsonia). Today, the team partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and CROW to help get an injured eastern screech owl (Megascops asio) to medical care.
Sea Turtle Team to Assess Impact on 17 Nests
On Sept. 27, the day before Hurricane Ian hit, our sea turtle team documented 17 nests remaining on Sanibel and Captiva. It was late enough in the nesting season that out of a total of 787 nests, more than 35,800 hatchlings had already emerged. Using exact location data for the remaining 17 nests, our team will soon be using their Trimble GPS locator device to check on them. With an accuracy of 3 to 5 centimeters, the device will take them to the exact spot on the beach where the nests were. We will provide updates once the team is able to fully access the beaches.


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