Date of this Version
Oryx, 46(2), 229–235 doi:10.1017/S0030605311000020
We examined impacts from effective predator management on nesting success of marine turtles in an exceptional nesting year at Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA, a beach with a high density of nesting marine turtles that has a history of severe nest predation. Historically up to 95% of nests were predated, primarily by raccoons Procyon lotor and, more recently, armadillos Dasypus novemcinctus. Predator control was identified as the most important conservation tool for marine turtle reproduction. Predator management by refuge staff as ancillary duties typically only held predation levels to c. 50%. However, when experts in predator control were employed predation was substantially reduced. An extraordinary opportunity to evaluate the biological and economic benefits of this management approach occurred in 2008, a year with exceptionally heavy nesting. Loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta nesting resurged, green Chelonia mydas and leatherback Dermochelys coriacea turtles nested in record numbers, producing twice or more than their median number of nests, and the first Kemp’s ridley Lepidochelys kempii nest was observed. Overall predation was 14.7%, resulting in an estimated >128,000 additional hatchlings emerging compared to estimates had no predator management been in place and historical predation rates occurred, and >56,000 hatchlings more than expected had predator management been conducted as ancillary duties rather than by experts. The USD 12,000 investment for expert predator management equated to only USD 0.09 spent for each additional hatchling produced compared to the scenario of no predator control and only USD 0.21 compared to the scenario of predator control as ancillary duties.