Tuesday, April 10, 2018, is Gopher Tortoise Day in Alachua County and Florida. Gopher Tortoise Day highlights the importance of conserving this state-threatened species, whose presence goes back 60 million years. Gopher tortoises live in every county of 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 five yards long. Their burrows give shelter to more than 350 other native species.
The County is encouraging 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. It is important not to put this terrestrial animal in the water.
“Gopher tortoises are long living gentle creatures, and we often help concerned residents learn about them so they can successfully and happily coexist,” said Alachua County Environmental Protection Department Natural Resources Program Manager Stephen Hofstetter.
The community can visit the many nature parks and preserves in Alachua County to see this incredible species. Visit the Parks and Conservation Lands website for more information.
The community 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.
To learn more about gopher tortoises, visit the Gopher Tortoise Day in Florida website.
For more information, contact Stephen Hofstetter at 352-264-6811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.