Grant: 16-030C
Project Title: ATV for Sanibel Island sea turtle surveys
Project Manager: Kelly Sloan
Organization: Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (Non-Profit Organization)
Grant Amount: $7,150.00
Completion Date: 2017-05-05

Summary: In recent years the westernmost end of Sanibel (Clam Bayou to Blind Pass) has become impassible using a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) due to severe erosion. Beach driving is also limited in this area because the loose sand from a renourishment project in 2013 causes heavier UTVs to sink. This project will provide a small All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) to monitor the westernmost stretch of Sanibel Island. A suitable lightweight vehicle is critically needed to facilitate nesting surveys on this erosional stretch of beach and will result in data including crawl documentation, excavations for nesting success, and ongoing conservation efforts to reduce nest depredation. Sea turtle monitoring on Sanibel began in the late 1950s and the use of an ATV will make it possible to maintain spatial continuity in a valuable long-term dataset. This vehicle will greatly enhance the capacity of our sea turtle program, which benefits state and federal sea turtle program goals related to sea turtle nest monitoring.

Results: Acquisition of a 2016 Honda Rancher through STGP funds allowed us to continue daily nesting surveys from April 15 October 10 on the last two mile stretch of Sanibel. Ninety-eight nests were laid in the survey area and the ATV greatly enhanced our efficiency in monitoring and protecting these nests. For example, 80 of the 98 nests were screened to deter coyote predation. We are happy to report a reduced depredation rate of 24% on this 2 mile stretch (compared to 38% in 2015). We also felt the impacts from two storms this season (TS Colin and Hurricane Hermine) and complete documentation of the nest losses was made possible through the use of the ATV. It was a record season for loggerheads nesting on Sanibel and we are very grateful that the ATV was available to allow consistent survey effort in our long-term dataset. Furthermore, the ATV is still in great condition and will used in upcoming years for ongoing surveys.