A female adult loggerhead sea turtle returns to the sea after nesting to lay her eggs on Ossabaw Island. It’s one of Georgia’s coastal species that could receive protection from the National Park Service under a program aimed at predators. CURTIS COMPTON / ccompton@ajc.com

Georgia national parks aim to shield threatened animals from predators

The National Park Service is asking the public to weigh in on its plans to control predators that might be threatening the livelihood of rare coastal animals in the Southeast.

The NPS is planning to establish a set of policies for park employees to protect “coastal species of concern” when they are targeted by a predatory animal. Species of concern in coastal Georgia usually have a low population, or are officially endangered, and they include animals such as the loggerhead sea turtle, the west Indian manatee and the piping plover.

The Park Service is accepting comments through Oct. 26.

Megan Desrosiers, the president and CEO of the Georgia environmental group 100 miles, said it’s important to balance the ecosystem at the state’s national parks. She said she hopes the public takes advantage of the opportunity to share opinions.

“As the National Park Service makes important management decisions about these properties, including those related to endangered and threatened species, it is important to hear from the stakeholders who visit, use and learn from the properties they manage for the public’s benefit,” Desrosiers said.

Proposed procedures range from nonlethal options such as installing screens on sea turtle nests to lethal options such as trapping and euthanizing predators.

The public can chime in on the Park Service’s proposed plans online at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/ sero or by mailing comments to the National Park Service, Planning and Compliance Division, ATTN: SERO PEA, 100 Alabama St., Atlanta, Ga. 30303.

The NPS will also host two webinars to answer questions. The hourlong webinars will be held 5 p.m. Oct. 9 and 6 p.m. Oct. 11. You can register for the webinars online at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/sero by going to “Open for Comment,” selecting “Coastal Species of Concern Predation Management Plan” and clicking on “Meeting Notices.”

The Park Service expects to finalize a plan by early next year.

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