Abstract

We tested the effectiveness of nest screens and habanero pepper powder as deterrents for reducing depredation of loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nests on Sand Island, South Carolina, including nest-screening (1 × 1-m plastic or metal mesh secured over the nest; n  =  33), surface-treatment (15 ml of habanero pepper powder sprinkled on the surface of the sand; n  =  10), bottom-treatment (15 ml of habanero pepper powder sprinkled 3 cm above the top egg; n  =  10), and 10 control nests. Twenty-two of 66 nests were partially or completely depredated by coyotes (Canis latrans), and nest survival rates varied from a high of 80% for surface-treated, 75% for screened, 45% for bottom-treated, and 32% for control nests. We propose that early surface-treatment of nests with pepper powder may provide an effective and more efficient management alternative to using screens, which are more difficult and costly to install, for reducing nest depredation at sea turtle nests.

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