Gopher tortoises on the move for mating season
Gopher tortoises have become increasingly active this time of year and are vulnerable to being injured or killed by vehicles, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said in a press release.
“They leave their burrows in search of green plants to eat and a tortoise to become their mate,” the press release stated. “From now through May, females will be laying eggs the size of ping-pong balls in the sandy apron outside
The FWC encourages drivers to slow down on highways to help protect the state’s gopher tortoises. If a gopher tortoise is crossing the road, wildlife officials said it is okay to pick it up and move it to safety — but keep it pointed in the direction it was heading and do not put this terrestrial animal into the water.
People can also help by downloading a new smartphone app to report to the FWC when and where they spot gopher tortoises. The free Florida Gopher Tortoise app recently became available for the iPhone and Android.
“When users of the app take a photograph of a tortoise or its burrow, the photo and its GPS coordinates will be sent automatically to the FWC,” the press release stated.
App-generated data collected by citizens will help guide conservation of this threatened species. Biological information and a quiz testing the user’s knowledge of the only tortoise east of the Mississippi River also are included in the app.
The FWC’s Gopher Tortoise Management Plan spells out goals and actions to protect the tortoises, their burrows sheltering hundreds of other species and their habitat. Prescribed burning is critical to maintaining the sandy, open fields and forests and the growth of soft-stemmed plants that tortoises need to survive. To access the management plan, go to MyFWC.com/Wildlife and select “Managed Species.”