ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH Fla.-- They're oh so cute and seemingly harmless: a tiny critter is causing big problems for St. Augustine Beach businesses, one parking spot at a time.
Instead of cars, beach mice are parking themselves at the free public lot at the end of Pope Road in St. Augustine Beach.
"We have to clear that issue up before the parking lot can be reopened," said St. Johns County Public Works Director Joe Stephenson.
The beach mouse is a federally protected species, and according to Stephenson, the mouse moved in when the lot closed for the beach renourishment project and never left.
"When you have new dunes forming because nobody's parking there, it becomes a mouse habitat," said Stephenson.
Limited parking at the beaches means limited business for nearby restaurants like F.A.'s café. Owner Benk Dagevos wants the mouse out now and public parking restored for his customers.
"It's been closed for what, six to eight months now, that's a bit much" said Dagevos.
"It's kind of amazing that a mouse has more rights than say our citizens here," said beachgoer Paul Slava.
Removal of the mouse is in the works, but Public Works tells us that could take quite some time to do it right.
"The environmental agencies allow under certain conditions that the mouse be trapped and relocated to a more appropriate environment," said Stephenson.
So far it has been too cold to set up traps in the area, and environmentalists say it will have to stay warm for several days until they can begin to capture and relocate the endangered mice.