Wildlife Trust lot buy to protect tortoises
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer
The Cape Coral Wildlife Trust was formed with the preservation of threatened and endangered species in mind.
On Tuesday, the organization will celebrate the purchase of its first preservation lot, one it says will help preserve numerous gopher tortoise burrows in the city.
The 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization will hold an open-to-the-public ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. at 305 N.W. 7th Terrace in Cape Coral, off of Tropicana Boulevard and Chiquita, where their first acquisition is located.
The property is home to more than two dozen gopher tortoise burrows and nearly 40 tortoises, officials said.
The tortoises, along with the burrowing owl, have been given the designation of a threatened species. Despite both being covered by Florida statutes, their numbers have been declining on the state and local levels.
“Our mission statement is to preserve and protect the wildlife in Cape Coral and this will carry it out,” said Carl Veaux, president of Friends of Wildlife and one of the founders of the Cape Coral Wildlife Trust, which is not affiliated with Friends of Wildlife, but was founded by many of the same individuals.
The trust was formed in November to acquire parcels with burrowing owls and gopher tortoises to give the species a place to thrive and survive in perpetuity.
Veaux said they had been looking for a lot and heard from the city there was a lot with tortoises on that particular parcel.
The city wanted to trade for the lot, but couldn’t.
“All the burrows are active. We had someone from the city go out and survey the lot and found 38 active burrows on the lot,” Veaux said. “There are quite a few young tortoises there.”
Gopher tortoises spend most of their time in burrows to protect them from heat, fire and predators. The burrows can be as much as 50 feet long and 10 feet deep.
The tortoises can be as small as a silver dollar and can have a lifespan in the wild of 40 years, although many clutches are destroyed by predators and only 6 percent of them live beyond their first birthday.
Utility construction is going on around the lot, so organizers of the ribbon cutting urge those wanting to attend arrive early to ensure a place to park.
The construction has resulted in the removal of some of the tortoises, and all the nearby burrowing owls, officials said.