Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan told FOX Weather that powerful hurricanes that make landfall in the Sunshine State can be devastating, but impacts from the most recent storms weren’t as harmful as they were anticipating.
"The (storm) surge from (Hurricane) Ian obviously had a huge impact on both our islands, Sanibel and Captiva," she said. "We actually had a data logger in one of our sea turtle nests during the hurricane that recorded 12 feet of surge on top of the eggs."
She said she was expecting significant changes to the habitat, but there wasn’t much erosion from the storm.
"We did see some really deep gullies form that provided a good habitat for our shorebirds," she continued. "They were able to come and forage and get lots of high-quality food."
In addition, Sloan said there was dune vegetation death that impacts sea turtles and other beach-nesting wildlife, but "overall, it wasn’t as bad as we expected."
There have also been spectacular images of flamingos ending up in areas from Florida to Wisconsin after Hurricane Idalia.
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But that’s cause for concern because they were displaced to a place that’s not warm and tropical.
"There can be broad impacts that we aren’t immediately thinking of when birds get pushed out of their natural habitat," Sloan said. "But we’ll just have to see how they adapt to their new location here in Florida."
Large animals, too, can be impacted by hurricanes.
Such was the case after Hurricane Idalia forced water inland, bringing manatees with it.
"It was a terrible storm in the sense that it moved a lot of water onshore, tremendous flooding," aquatic biologist and executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, Patrick Rose told FOX Weather. "Manatees are pretty well adapted to deal with that. But at the same time, they move inland and get trapped as the water recedes."
He said even the marginal sea level rise in southwestern Florida about 300 miles south of where Hurricane Idalia made landfall sent manatees inland.
But many larger animals can get out of the way before a storm strikes.
"Coastal wildlife in general is well adapted to hurricanes because they live in places where hurricanes happen regularly," Sloan said. "Manatees, sea turtles, dolphins, all of them have adapted ways to survive during hurricanes."
She said although there would be some mortality, they could get out of the way if a storm approaches.
"They can dive deeper sometimes," she continued. "They can sense that a storm is coming and relocate. Things like that can help them survive."