Florida Gopher Tortoise Day is all about community awareness

Florida Gopher Tortoise Day is being celebrated on April 10, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encouraging communities, organizations and individuals to help conserve this threatened species.

This year, seven counties – Alachua, Brevard, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Indian River and Sarasota – and the cities of Cape Coral, Flagler Beach, Melbourne, North Port and Venice are adopting Florida Gopher Tortoise Day resolutions. But anyone can get involved in helping Florida’s gopher tortoises.

Looking for ways to celebrate Gopher Tortoise Day and conserve the tortoise? Go to GopherTortoiseDayFL.com for information and activities for April 10 and all year long.

During April and May, you may spot one of these gentle, slow-moving reptiles which become more active in spring. They exit their deep burrows in search of a meal of spring greenery and often to look for a mate. Look for tortoises and their half-moon shaped burrow entrances in yards, neighborhoods, along roadways and on many of the state’s private and public lands.

“If you’re a fan of the gopher tortoise, help us spread the word on conserving this threatened species, whose burrows are home to hundreds of animals, including the eastern indigo snake, gopher frog and Florida mouse,” said Deborah Burr, who heads the FWC’s Gopher Tortoise Management Program.

“If you see a gopher tortoise crossing a road, pick it up and place it on the roadside in the direction it was heading, but only if it is safe for you to do so,” Burr said. “Remember, the gopher tortoise is a land animal, so never put it into water. And don’t forget it is illegal to harm a gopher tortoise, its eggs or its burrow.”

You also can help by using the Florida Gopher Tortoise app to report gopher tortoise sightings and learn about the species.

Gopher tortoises are found in all 67 Florida counties, but need plenty of sandy, sunny habitats with an open tree canopy to thrive and survive. The FWC’s Wildlife Management Area system, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, provides habitat for gopher tortoises. Local governments and private landowners, including farmers, foresters and ranchers, also work with the FWC to help conserve and restore gopher tortoise habitat.

On the Gopher Tortoise Day website, you can access many resources, including a resolution template for your community to adopt Gopher Tortoise Day, a guide to living with gopher tortoises, gopher tortoises and road safety and ideas for kids’ activities, such as build a burrow instructions and the Gopher Tortoise Field Trip Guide.

More information on gopher tortoises is at MyFWC.com/GopherTortoise. Go to MyFWC.com/WMA75 to find a wildlife management area near you and find out how you can participate in WMA anniversary events across the state.