Protected reserve recovering after destruction

The game impacted more than the scoreboard and the football team


The aftermath of the tailgate on Sept. 11 left more of an impact than anticipated. Photo by Max Jackson

Joseph Kennedy, Contributing Writer

The aftermath of  last week’s game affected more than the beaten down football team as students spent hours cleaning up the trampled preserve, home to protected wildlife.

With more than 30,000 tailgating and cheering for both teams at last Friday’s game against the Miami Hurricanes, excitement was high around FAU.

However, the result of the Hurricanes traveling through may have more of a lasting impact, particularly for the threatened gopher tortoise and the endangered burrowing owl, Florida Atlantic’s mascot.

“There was evidence that some of the burrows had been trampled on. They had to be dug back out by either the animals or biologists,” Florida Fish and Wildlife officer Rachel King said.

The controversy began months ago when the decision was made to move the “Rat’s Mouth” tailgating area to lot 5, which runs parallel to the ecological preservation site.

The location is an open parking area where students can come in several hours before the game to grill and hang out for pregame activities. Lot 5 starts across the street from the stadium, allowing individuals partying before the game to easily walk there.

The preserve that runs adjacent to the parking lot is separated by a small post and rail-wooden fence with signs to notify individuals about the protected area. It is home to many native animals.

The move to lot 5 was implemented despite circulating petitions that were against the decision. Many feared that the tailgating would harm the animals living around lot 5, as reported in June.

The concerns for the endangered wildlife were legitimized on Friday.

“I was only there for a few hours and I saw several people walking into the conservation area,” Melody Schmaltz, a junior who was at the event explained. “If I was an animal, I wouldn’t have wanted to be living there.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission watches over the protected area to make sure that the endangered animals are kept safe. After the the game they went to check on the site.

Mission Green, an FAU student organization that is dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability, was at the game to assist in cleanup efforts and protect the preserve.


“We have done a lot of clean ups at the games. This was the worst that we have ever seen though. We filled a big bag with litter just from the preserve alone,” said Kelly Mclaughlin, a member of Mission Green.

Janna Kepley posted, “The trash contained mainly recently used beer bottles, cans and cups. Many of them still had beer in them and were frosty cold. We found a few postcard-sized flyers and snack wrappers, but it was mainly beer.”

“There was police presence in the tailgate area, working to keep people out of the protected areas,” Mclaughlin said. “But there is only so much they could do. They had a lot of other things to take care of.”

Students that could not get tickets for inside of the stadium could still access the “Rat’s Mouth” and the pregame events for free.

“In my opinion tailgating was the best part,” Dylon Orquera, freshman, said.

With the large crowds FAU PD  reached out to the Boca police department for assistance in taking care of the traffic and security. Even with this extra presence, there were eight arrests on campus that Friday, according to FAU police records.

That number is significantly higher when compared to the University of Central Florida’s first home game, that saw only one arrest and two incidents of theft, according to the UCF police blotter-even though UCF had an announced attendance of almost 10,000 more people.

With five more home games left in the season, there is still a lot to be worked out to make sure that all of the communities at FAU can coexist.

When asked if the continued tailgating would harm the protected wildlife, King responded “Yes, if students continue to go in there and walk off of the trails. We actually have laws to protect the gopher tortoise burrows though.”