Monday, January 24, 2022

Updated: Dolphin, Bird, and Sea Turtle Deaths on Marco Beaches

Since November 24th, three dead dolphins have been towed from Marco Island beaches, along with a mature dead male loggerhead sea turtle. In Naples this weekend, there were reports of 15 dead dolphins washing to shore and being sighted on the water.

Photo by Kevin Olszak

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “There was a spike of 22 bottlenose dolphin mortalities over the holiday weekend in Lee and Collier Counties. Experts suspect it is red tide. Biologists from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are sampling the waters and dolphin for red tide from those areas. A total of 92 bottlenose dolphins in Southwest Florida are confirmed dead from the red tide in an Unusual Mortality Event declared by NOAA.” Tissue testing results for causes other than red tide have not yet been reported.

Here in Marco, the current presence of large flocks of migratory birds on our beaches everyday is such a magnificent sight. It is very disturbing to observe both residents and visitors engaging in a most destructive manner towards the migratory birds. As the birds sit close to the surf, resting and feeding, uncaring members of the public have been seen “flushing them,” to get that perfect photo and some do it because “they can”. To add insult to injury, beach walkers have witnessed the County employed beach raker go through and flush the colony of sitting birds. According to Kathy Eil, known as the Shell Lady, the County raker “goes along the high water mark and has run over and killed several birds that couldn’t get out of the way fast enough.” Another beach goer witnessed the raker tear through a bird causing a broken wing and big hole in its body cavity. The mangled bird was brought to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Wildlife clinic this morning. The close proximity of the beach raker to the colony has caused the birds to flush frequently from Residents Beach to South Beach. To lodge a complaint about any reckless rakers, please send an email to: Gary McAlpin, Director of Coastal Zone Management at:

Photo by Adam DiNuovo

The terns and the black skimmers are “state threatened” birds and thus “flushing” behavior constitutes as an illegal act. Unfortunately, sick birds have also been found within those large flocks and flushing them results in making the sick birds weaker. The State is also testing the cause of more than 100 avian deaths.

Please Help Save Our Sick Birds by following the following protocol:

With your cell phone, please take a photo of the sick bird and note its location on the beach. Send the message to Adam DiNuovo of Audubon at adinouvo@audubon.orgor send him a text message at 413-896-4751. If you encounter a stranded dolphin or sea turtle, please take a photo and note its location and send to Adam DiNuovo.

Immediately report the stranding to Marco Island Police Department’s non-emergency number at 239-389-5050.


Submitted Photos

One response to “Updated: Dolphin, Bird, and Sea Turtle Deaths on Marco Beaches”

  1. Bonnie Samuelsen says:

    Thank you for reporting on this tragedy. The number of dead seabirds, turtle, and dolphin are the most noticeable. There is nothing “natural” about “this” red tide. Adam DiNuovo has been collecting and reporting numerous dead birds for weeks.

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