Wednesday Was Gopher Tortoise Day

April 10, 2019

Florida celebrated Gopher Tortoise Day on Wednesday.

Gopher tortoises are found in all 67 counties and are frequently encountered in neighborhoods, along roadways, and in many of Florida’s public parks and forests. The goal of Gopher Tortoise Day is to increase awareness and appreciation for these long lived, gentle reptiles.

A gopher tortoise strolling across a road or through a backyard or field is a common sight during spring in the North Escambia area. Yet as tortoises become increasingly active this time of year, they are vulnerable to being struck by vehicles and injured or killed.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is urging residents to look out for these slow-moving reptiles with their bony-plated shells and elephantine legs. They leave their burrows in search of green plants to eat and a tortoise to become their mate. From now through May, females will be laying eggs the size of ping-pong balls in the sandy apron outside their burrows.

FWC is also encouraging drivers to slow down on highways to help protect the state’s gopher tortoises. If a gopher tortoise is crossing the road, it is OK to pick it up and move it to safety — but keep it pointed in the direction it was heading and do not put this terrestrial animal into the water.

People also can help by downloading and using a  smartphone app to report to the FWC when and where they spot gopher tortoises. The free “Florida gopher tortoise” app recently became available on iPhone and Android. When users of the app take a photograph of a tortoise or its burrow, the photo and its GPS coordinates will be sent automatically to the FWC.

App-generated data collected by citizen scientists will help guide conservation of this threatened species. Biological information and a quiz testing the user’s knowledge of the only tortoise east of the Mississippi River also are included in the app.

Harming a gopher tortoise, its burrows or eggs is against the law.


7 Responses to “Wednesday Was Gopher Tortoise Day”

  1. 429SCJ on April 11th, 2019 7:46 am

    I had a pet gopher during the early seventies.

    Amazingly his burrow is still in the down back, though vacated for many years.

    We are a species that has the God given ability, to help the lesser creatures in this world. Let us preserve and conserve our wildlife, especially the most vulnerable.

    And for those who would deliberately harm one of the gentle creatures, as they attempt to cross the roadway; there will be no discussion.

  2. TUMOM on April 10th, 2019 11:13 pm

    I absolutely love these precious creatures! If I ever see one trying to cross the road, I will stop, no matter how busy the road, and help them cross the road for their own safety.

  3. Wharf Rat on April 10th, 2019 11:03 pm

    Several years ago I found a tortoise trying to cross 9 mile Rd. near University Pkwy. It’s dangerous for a human to do this, much less an animal who does not understand that somebody will run over you because you are in their way. I took “him” home…you can tell the boys from the girls by looking at their lower shells. I was informed it was illegal for me to even look at a tortoise with both eyes because they were endangered. I remarked some may be, but this one was not in danger. He loved figs, grapes, bananas, etc., and would come to you and bump you when we were in the back yard.

    This critter lived with us for several years. We marked the seasons when he would go into hibernation and come out of his burrow.

    Alas, puberty must have set in, and we found where he went under the fence. Life goes on and we wish him well.

  4. Florida logger on April 10th, 2019 3:22 pm

    So sweet of a reptile just so gentle

  5. anne 1of2 on April 10th, 2019 2:11 pm

    Rita was intentionally run over last April, Oscar is still looking for her. The whole neighborhood is hoping another female will show up

  6. Charlotte Bates on April 10th, 2019 1:16 pm

    I have one living down at the bottom of my five fenced in acres. He, or she, has been there for the past few years. I don’t bother it, and do not allow my dogs to bother it. I do enjoy seeing it, now and then. BTW, I don’t feed it either. You are not suppose to, from what I’ve read about them.

  7. just sayin on April 10th, 2019 12:47 pm

    If one takes up residence in your yard and you want to relocate it. Do yourself a favor and don’t report it or else you could be stuck with this thing until it moves on its own.

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