Gopher Tortoise Day

gopher tortoiseWednesday, April 10, 2019, is Gopher Tortoise Day in Alachua County and Florida. Gopher Tortoise Day highlights the importance of conserving this state-threatened species (a threatened species is one that has been identified as being on the decline and risk being endangered).

Gopher tortoises, whose presence goes back 60 million years, live in every county in Florida and are known for their extraordinary digging skills. Their burrows give shelter to more than 350 other native species. Their benefit to others makes gopher tortoises a keystone species for Florida.

Citizens’ actions can strengthen recovery efforts. From now through May 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. Because they are a terrestrial animal, they should not be placed in water.

“These long-living gentle creatures can be found in all 67 counties in Florida, and we often help our county residents learn about them so they can successfully and happily coexist,” said Alachua County Environmental Protection Department Natural Resources Program Manager Stephen Hofstetter. “You can visit the many nature parks and preserves in Alachua County to see this incredible species.”

For more information about County nature parks and preserves, visit the Parks and Conservation Lands website

Residents can help protect the species by using the Florida Gopher Tortoise app, which allows people to report gopher tortoise sightings while learning about the species.

Visit the Florida Gopher Tortoise Day website.

For more information, contact Stephen Hofstetter at 352-264-6811 or shofstetter@alachuacounty.us.

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