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Share the Shore with Wildlife, Fort Clinch State Park
Share the Shore with Wildlife, Fort Clinch State Park

Love nature and being outdoors? Love to take photos? Here are some things to keep in mind when spending time outside enjoying the coast and photographing wildlife.

Florida’s beaches are widely utilized as recreational areas — one of the main attractions of the state. Yet, the beach is the natural habitat and nesting grounds for various species. Interrupting the natural behavior of wildlife can impact feeding and reproduction and be detrimental to the species’ long-term existence. For those unfamiliar with the coast, dunes are environmentally sensitive areas and the sea oats within them protected by Florida state law, so please do not enter dunes or disturb sea oats when visiting the beach. Also teach children not to play in the dunes. As noted in the photo above of a sign at Fort Clinch State Park, please “Give Wildlife A Break!”

“Share the shore with wildlife,” and follow these tips when visiting the beach (also watch video below):

1. Learn the rules and always respect posted signs. “Most shorebirds and seabirds nest and raise their young between February and August each year in Florida,” according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. On Amelia Island, two highly sensitive bird nesting areas within Amelia Island State Park and Fort Clinch State Park are roped off during nesting periods, please keep your distance. Note that much of Amelia Island State Park is designated a “Critical Wildlife Area.” Thus, large areas of Amelia Island State Park are off limits during bird nesting season (“closure dates April 1- September 1st”).

Photographers and/or Birders at Fort Clinch State Park
Birders and/or Photographers Observing Birds at Fort Clinch

2. Give wildlife some space. You have gotten too close if you interrupt an animal’s natural behavior. Don’t walk into “resting” birds on the beach and send them flying. Although it’s a fun childhood impulse to run into a flock of birds to send them soaring, teach children not to disturb birds on the beach. Always keep pets leashed at the beach (better, yet — don’t bring dogs to the beach). Dogs are seen as predators by wildlife.

Besides the birds, if you happen to see a sea turtle on the beach stay far back (getting too close may cause her to retreat to the sea without laying eggs). Sea turtles nest along Amelia Island’s 13-mile long shoreline May to October. Nests are clearly marked and should not be disturbed.

3. Show respect to surroundings. Follow the “carry on, carry off” rule when visiting the beach. Please be sure to remove beach shelters, umbrellas, chairs and trash when departing the beach.

BE A “BEACH HERO,” RESPECT COASTAL WILDLIFE, SHOREBIRDS AND SEA TURTLES. SEE BROCHURE at city of Fernandina’s website.

If you find a dead, sick, or injured sea turtle (or see anyone disturbing sea turtles or shorebirds), call the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s 24-hour Wildlife Alert number 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), call #FWC or *FWC on your cell phone, or text [email protected].