"" Writer's Wanderings: Gopher Tortoise Challenge

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Gopher Tortoise Challenge

 The Cape Haze/Englewood area where our Florida kids are planning to build their house is also an area where there are a lot of gopher tortoises. What are they? Good question.

The gopher tortoise is an endangered species and is protected in Florida. Its origins go to back 60 million years and it is one of the oldest living species on the planet. They are known for burrowing into the ground. They have large hind legs and flattened forelimbs that are shovel-like, perfect for their digging. Their burrows can be 40 feet long and up to 10 feet wide and are known to provide shelter for 300 other species such as rodents, snakes, and the gopher frog.

The main threat to the gopher tortoise is loss of habitat and with all the development in Florida, it is a major concern. For that reason, there are restrictions on moving or even touching a gopher tortoise. Now with all of that said, let me take you to the lot our kids are planning to build on.

They knew up front that the gopher tortoises were in the area and on the lot. One in particular is burrowed into a spot where the foundation will be. Our son is undaunted by obstacles and has begun to learn what needs to be done to relocate the tortoise. A permit has been purchased and he is in the process of learning exactly how to move the tortoise without touching it as to touch it is illegal. Hopefully they will be able to use the bucket method which is to dig in front of the burrow and place a bucket into the ground, covered lightly with paper and dirt and wait for the tortoise to exit the burrow and fall into the bucket. There is a little more involved over the course of relocation but the tortoise will be moved to the back of the lot where there is more room to burrow away from the house building area. Since a gopher turtle lives 40-60 years or longer, they will be neighbors for a long time.

Our son and his family are very concerned with conservation and protecting natural species so I'm sure their gopher tortoise is in good hands. We did meet one out of his burrow in a park area where we walked a trail and I was able to grab a picture of it.

Hopefully the house will be built before another tortoise decides to move in.

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