ALACHUA COUNTY, FL - Monday, April 10, 2017, is Gopher Tortoise Day in Alachua County and Florida. Gopher Tortoise Day is a newly-launched effort to highlight the importance of conserving this species currently threatened in the state, whose presence goes back 60 million years. Gopher tortoises live in every county in Florida and are known for their extraordinary digging skills. These gray or brown tortoises use shovel-like forearms to carve out burrows averaging several yards deep and 5 yards long. Their burrows give shelter to hundreds of other native species.
The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department (EPD) encourages the public to be aware of the gopher tortoise as a Florida keystone species and learn how their actions can strengthen recovery efforts. From now through May, for example, the gopher tortoise is increasingly active, leaving its underground burrow in search of spring greenery to eat and, in many cases, a mate. People can help by watching out for a tortoise crossing the highway and, if it’s safe to do so, picking it up and placing it on the roadside in the direction it was heading (Don’t put this terrestrial animal in the water).
“Many Floridians and visitors to the state are knowledgeable about gopher tortoises and willing to take actions to help them. We’re excited about Gopher Tortoise Day as a way to get more people involved,” said Deborah Burr, who leads the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) gopher tortoise management program.
“We are fortunate to have nature preserves in Alachua County that harbor and protect these great animals,” said EPD Natural Resources Program Manager Stephen Hofstetter. “You can visit the many nature parks and preserves in Alachua County to see this incredible species.”
For information about parks and preserves, visit the Parks and Conservation Lands website.
Citizens can help protect the species by using the Florida Gopher Tortoise app, which gives people a chance to report gopher tortoise sightings while learning about the species.
Read the County Commission Gopher Tortoise Day proclamation.
Learn more about gopher tortoises.
For more information, contact Stephen Hofstetter at 352-264-6811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.