Florida man accused of trying to eat gopher tortoises at state park in Martin County
MARTIN COUNTY – While eating turtles is considered a delicacy by some, eating gopher tortoises is not as common.
A 28-year-old man was charged with trying to poach two of the endangered reptiles Saturday night.
Deputies said they responded to a call at Seabranch Preserve State Park in Stuart and found Robert Lane, of Lake City, on the ground. He had pulled a male and female tortoise from their burrow and was trying to catch more.
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When officials asked Lane why he was catching the tortoises, Lane told them he was planning to take the tortoises home and eat them.
The case was turned over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Officials there issued Lane a citation for possessing gopher tortoises.
Deputies returned the tortoises to the hole they were pulled from at Seabranch Preserve State Park.
Lane was issued a notice to appear in court.
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According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, gopher tortoises can live in the wild up to 80 years and over 100 years in captivity. They are protected by federal law under the Endangered Species Act in Florida, part of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and parts of South Carolina.
One of the biggest threats to the tortoises is habit destruction, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Laurie Weber, a spokeswoman for the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said the agency does not often get cases of people trying to eat gopher tortoises.
More: If there were tortoises on the land before there’s no trace of them now