« If you take away the tortoise that whole ecosystem will crumble, » says Edie Driest.
Driest runs the North Port Friends of Wildlife. She told us that gopher tortoise burrows support all kinds of other wildlife, including rats, lizards, and assorted other creatures. That makes ensuring the tortoise’s safety critical. The City agrees, and it’s created a new way for the public to get involved by submitting the locations of burrows around North Port.
« A map comes up, it has your general location on there, » says city data analyst Jon Kalfsbeck.
Using your smartphone or tablet, you access the City’s website and from there you can send in a report.
« You’re going to see one of our GIS maps that has your general location, » says Kalfsbeck.
You then take a picture of the burrow and click submit. It works using a Geographical Information System or GIS, which is used to created spatial or geographical data. Think GPS for professionals.
« Once you submit it, if you’re within City property somebody from public works would come out and check, » we asked. « Yes, we’ll get it and it’ll be up to me to schedule it, » said Kalfsbeck.
According to Driest, this could prevent unnecessary tortoise deaths.
« Anytime the City’s doing maintenance on roads or that kind of thing or even development is happening that we all can be aware, the City planners can be aware that these animals could very likely be in harms way, » said Driest.
It will also help keep the tortoises out of harm’s way by offering a new way to track them.
« My hope is that this will be a ripple effect that it will go on and other cities will actually be doing the same thing, » says Driest.
This new way of mapping these gopher tortoise burrows is so popular, Karlfsbeck with the City of North Port will be speaking to a GIS conference at Selby Library on Wednesday.