DEPREDATION OF OLIVE RIDLEY AND LOGGERHEAD TURTLE CLUTCHES ON BEACHES WITH AND WITHOUT PREDATOR MANAGEMNT
Management of predation on sea turtle nesting beaches is vital to conservation efforts for the vulnerable loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) and olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea). Sea turtles increasingly face threats from invasive and human-tolerant mammalian predators as human disturbances on nesting beaches rises. The intensity of mammalian predation has increased in Las Baulas National Park in Costa Rica which is an important nesting site for several species of threatened and endangered sea turtles. I analyzed loggerhead and olive ridley nest predation on four beaches in the United States and Costa Rica that were chosen for variations in degree of human disturbance and management strategies. My objectives were to 1) determine if egg predation rates differ at the four sites, 2) determine the most destructive predators at each location, and 3) suggest management options to alleviate mammalian threats to turtle clutches on Playa Grande and Playa Cabuyal in Costa Rica. My results show that the beaches without a nest protection or predator control program had very high rates of predation. Invasive mammalian predators and mammalian predators associated with human disturbance were the most destructive at the four sites. I recommend that regulations regarding dogs and the take of eggs from the beach are enforced at Playa Cabuyal and that physical nest protection is rapidly implemented at Playa Grande. I also recommend that the National Park consider managing raccoon predation by removing problem individuals, but caution that they do so in a way that maintains the animals’ role in the ecosystem.