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Lee County man charged with alleged intentional killing of five black skimmers on Marco Island

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Jean Hall
Special to WGCU
The death of five black skimmers on a Marco Island beach has prompted an investigation by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission and Marco Island police. A Bonita Springs man is facing charges in the deaths.

A Bonita Springs man has been charged in the killing of five threatened black skimmer birds on Marco Island this week.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers charged Renardo Stewart, 24, with five misdemeanor charges related to violations against endangered or threatened species.

Witnesses said they observed Stewart accelerate and run a golf cart through a flock of black skimmers resting on the beach. Marco Island Police Department detained Stewart, who was reportedly working for the JW Marriott Marco Beach Resort at the time, and he admitted to driving the golf cart through the flock of birds.

A Marco Island police report said officers were dispatched to the beach area in front of 400 South Collier Blvd. shortly before 1:30 p.m. Monday. The remains of the five birds were seen in the sand.

Special to WGCU
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Marco Island police arrested Renardo Stewart, 24, of Bonita Springs ion Monday for the alleged intentional killing of five threatened black skimmer bids on a Marco Island beach.

A spokesman for the resort, Douglas Corbett, issued a statement: "We are devastated to learn of the incident on our beach yesterday. We are cooperating fully with the authorities’ investigation, and are taking steps internally to address this serious matter."

The black skimmer is protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is also protected as State Threatened by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.

Under the Endangered Species Act , plant and animal species may be listed as either endangered or threatened. “Endangered” means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. “Threatened” means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.

First look: Five threatened birds killed on Marco Island beach

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Special to WGCU
The black skimmer is a seabird with defining physical characteristics that make it easily distinguishable from others. The key physical feature of the skimmer is its large red and black bill. The bill begins to widen at the top and gradually becomes smaller as it forms a sharp tip at the end of the bill. The lower part of the bill is longer than the top, which is important because they use their bill to skim along the top of the water to catch fish, for which they are aptly named.

Black skimmers rely on Florida’s sandy beaches to nest and to rest in flocks, called colonies. Black skimmers are named for how they skim along the surface of the water to forage for fish, dragging their long lower bill in the water. Resting skimmers often lay their entire bodies on the sand to give their neck muscles a break after foraging, a behavior called loafing. Like sleeping, loafing is a vital part of a bird’s survival. The FWC reminds the public of the importance of giving black skimmers and other coastal wildlife space to safely forage and rest on our beaches.

A Marco Island police report said one of the dead birds had been banded in Tampa Bay area for research. The banded bird was evidence that these birds sometimes fly significant distances to find the few remaining places to rest and feed in order to have a successful summer breeding season.

Anyone witnessing someone threatening or harassing wildlife should contact the Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (888-404-3922).

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