PALM BEACH, Fla. — A representative of Bear Warriors United, an animal rights nonprofit, said they're ready to file a lawsuit against the town of Palm Beach.
"I'm not intimidated by anyone or anything when it comes to protecting the wildlife," Katrina Shadix, the executive director of Bear Warriors United, said.
During sea turtle nesting season, the organization has documented lighting coming from homes along the coast, large tractors and furniture on the sand. They said this is a direct violation of the Endangered Species Act, harming turtles and their nests.
"They are probably better set than any town in this state to be the premier sea turtle protection town," Shadix said. "For them to not want to be that, and get that spotlight, and that good PR, it really baffles me because they have a chance here to be sea turtle heroes, and they're being sea turtle zeros."
The nonprofit issued a 60-day notice of intent in July to sue the town of Palm Beach.
"If they force us to protect the turtle with litigation, then that's what they're going to do," Shadix said.
The organization's attorney said the notice of intent to sue is a requirement under the Federal Endangered Species Act, and that you can not file a lawsuit until the notice is sent.
"We can file it at a time of our choosing now," Lesley Blackner, Bear Warrior United's attorney, said. "We are watching to see what the town of Palm Beach does."
Animal rights group claims Palm Beach isn't protecting sea turtles
"Since you issued the notice, have you seen any change, have you heard from them that they've taken any action?" WPTV reporter Joel Lopez asked.
"No," Blackner responded.
In a letter to a Palm Beach resident, the town stated the following:
"The Town of Palm Beach is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to protect endangered sea turtles which nest on our local beaches and hatchlings which come from those nests. The monthly Lighting Report, provided by the FWC, has identified numerous properties in our Town as a high priority for light pollution in this regard."
It states in Town Code Chapter 74, Article II, Division 4, requiring all oceanfront property owners to ensure that their lights are not visible from the beach anytime from March 1 through Oct. 31.
"We don't want the lighting on the beach because the sea turtles go toward the light, which disorients them, and we have video and pictures of their tracks going in circles instead of to the nest and back out to sea," Shadix said. "We have the little hatchlings going in circles not being able to find their way to the ocean."
According to the group, beaches in Palm Beach County are the most important nesting beaches in the continental United States.
"It would be so wonderful and so easy for the town of Palm Beach with its resources to make this beach a model for sea turtle conservation," Blackner said.
The lawsuit is also requesting that the town of Palm Beach prohibit dogs on the beach during sea turtle nesting season.
"We have video of the dogs digging up nests, eating the eggs, eating the hatchlings," Shadix said. "And one of the most disturbing videos was a dog that went into the water to attack a mother sea turtle's face as she was trying to get into the water for shelter. She just laid her nest, and the guy can't get the dog off of the turtle."
WPTV has filed a records request with the Palm Beach Police Department to see the number of violations that may have been issued this season.
Police said they won't comment on possible pending litigation.
WPTV also contacted FWC and the town of Palm Beach but have not heard back.
In an earlier report on this story, the town said they do not comment on possible pending litigation.
"The message to the town of Palm Beach is I have a phone number. I've given it to them. They are more than welcome to call me and say, "How can we fix this,'" Shadix said. "We would help them fix this. We could get this done in a week, and we don't file the lawsuit."