Before any land clearance or construction can take place, gopher tortoises must be moved, and property owners must get licenses from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission before they can do so. The license is required because moving these turtles can be dangerous work. The FWC recommends that only trained professionals move gopher tortoises.
Gopher turtles can weigh up to 40 pounds and can live in excess of 20 years. They are able to climb well for their size and have been known to climb out of their habitat and into gardens or lawns where they can become trapped by fences or lose their way home. They can also fall out of their habitats during reclamation work and be run over by vehicles. Because of this reason, all gopher tortoise moves should be done by a professional who has experience with these animals.
Gopher tortoises can be found in parts of the United States including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Although they are not endangered, there are many efforts being made to protect them because they play an important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
No, you must get a relocation permit from the FWC for each designated property, enabling the capture and possession of gopher tortoises from or within that property, in order to relocate gopher tortoises. The cost is $25 for each permit.
Gopher turtles can be difficult to find in the wild because they live near their food source, which is underground. This means that if you want to see one, you need to look for signs of gophers on your own property. You might see tracks left by gophers as they travel between their tunnels and feeding sites, or you might find some fresh dirt that has been turned over when a gopher digs its way out of its tunnel.
If you locate a gopher on your property, you will need to obtain a relocation permit from the FWC before you can capture it. Permits are available online at Florida Keepers or by calling 1-888-404-3922.
The FWC recommends three different methods for relocating gopher turtles: release, harvest and transport. If you choose to release the gopher turtle back into the wild, the FWC recommends doing so only during daylight hours, and only in an area where it is likely to survive.
Except with a permission given by the director of the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission, you may not touch or disrupt a gopher tortoise or gopher tortoise burrow (active or inactive). Handling these animals can cause them unnecessary pain and stress which can lead to death.
However, if you come across a gopher tortoise while it is active, you can easily observe the way that it moves its front legs over the ground as it searches for food. This behavior is different from that of a turtle, which does not use its limbs to move about. Instead, it uses its tail to swim and propel itself through water or soil. Also, unlike turtles, gopher tortoises have no shell to protect them from predators.
If you plan to handle a gopher tortoise or burrow with the intention of releasing it back into the wild, please first contact a wildlife rehabilitator who can provide instructions on how to care for the animal in captivity. Some species of gopher tortoise are endangered or protected under state law; if this is the case, you will need to obtain a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission before you can release the animal.
Also, remember that all animals have feelings and emotions just like us humans.
When people come across tortoises, they usually wish to protect or remove them. Gopher tortoises are a protected species under federal law. Current Florida state statutes specify unequivocally that it is forbidden to handle, disrupt, or disturb gopher tortoises or their burrows. The only exception is if you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who plans to release the animal back into the wild.
People often wonder whether it is safe to pick up a gopher tortoise. The short answer is yes, as long as you follow some simple rules. If you plan to keep the tortoise as a pet, you should take it to a veterinarian for a thorough examination before you buy it. Check with your local government agency to make sure that you can adopt or purchase gopher tortoises in your area and then release them back into the wild.
Gopher tortoises are native to the southern United States from Texas east to South Carolina. They prefer dry areas with lots of underground food sources such as nuts, bulbs, and roots. Females typically have between four and eight babies at a time. Males stick around to help defend their territories but are not responsible for raising the young.
People sometimes confuse gopher tortoises with black-footed tortoises but they are not related. Black-footed tortoises grow larger than gopher tortoises and have a much darker shell.
A $5,000 fine is imposed on anybody who kills or injures a gopher tortoise, which is listed as endangered in Florida. Lawbreaking is a third-degree crime punishable by up to five years in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both.
The gopher tortoise was once widespread across southern Georgia and northern South Carolina, but it is now protected by law and cannot be hunted. Despite this protection, some people still kill them for their shells, which are used commercially for making jewelry. Unfortunately, this practice does not benefit the tortoises and only causes them more trouble than anything else.
People often confuse the gopher tortoise with its close relative, the red-bellied turtle, but they are not related at all. The red-bellied turtle is much smaller (usually no larger than your hand) and lacks the black mark near its eye. It is also found in different habitats including beaches and ponds rather than just underground like the gopher tortoise.
It is illegal to import any gopher tortoise into Florida, except under special circumstances such as when you have a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection. Even if you get one through customs, you can still face fines if you don't have a valid scientific purpose for owning one.
Please pick up gopher tortoises and relocate them away of the road in the direction the tortoise was travelling if you spot them. You must not take it with you or relocate it. If you locate a sick or wounded tortoise, contact 1-850-921-1030 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. Otherwise, leave the animal alone.