Gopher tortoises are one of Florida’s threatened species, which means they are likely to become endangered in the near future unless steps are taken to protect them. Referred to as a keystone species, tortoises have an enormous impact on the local environment. The word keystone comes from an architectural term dealing with the construction of a building, meaning that if one key part were removed the whole building would tumble down. The gopher tortoise is a keystone species because of its burrow. Gopher tortoise burrows offer shelter and nesting grounds to over 300 other species!
The Gopher Tortoise is one of the many species of animals living in North Port's neighborhoods. Here are some resources about this protected species:
Contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) if the proposed activity is within 25-feet of a gopher tortoise burrow. FWC may require a gopher tortoise relocation permit before construction begins as outlined in the Gopher Tortoise Management Plan.
In the past, landowners with Gopher Tortoise (GT) burrows on their properties have had the option of obtaining permits to entomb tortoises within their burrows. This resulted in the starvation and suffocation of not only the GT, but many other listed species that were present in the burrow. Due to significant habitat loss and degradation, the GT population is declining throughout Florida. Because of this, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has upgraded the status of the GT to ‘Threatened’. Thus the FWC has omitted the practice of entombing tortoises from the available options. In the instance that you have been informed that you have gopher tortoise burrow/s on your property, you have 2 options:
You must provide Charlotte County staff a site plan documenting: all tortoise burrow/s that will be avoided with a minimum 25 foot bufferhow the burrow will be protected during all construction activitiesthe original Tree Site Plan modified (if applicable) so that no activity occurs within this buffer
Start the relocation of the tortoise/s following all FWC protocol (provided by staff at the request of the applicant). This protocol may involve finding an appropriate recipient site, as approved by the FWC. If the shovel/backhoe method will be used, qualified personnel (as determined in FWC management plan) must be used so as to avoid injuring/killing the tortoise/s.Once the tortoise/s have been successfully relocated on/off site (depending upon permit specifications), staff must be informed either verbally or by letter that the tortoise/s have been successfully relocated and by what method they were relocated (i.e. bucket trapped, shovel or backhoe excavation). A site plan must be provided to staff showing the area where the tortoise/s will be relocated to and how that area will remain protected at all times. If the original tree site plan provided shows trees being removed within this protection area, the tree site plan must be modified accordingly so that no activity will take place within the tortoise protection area.**
**Staff conducts random inspections to verify successful gopher tortoise relocations. For any additional questions or concerns, you may contact Charlotte County's Environmental Specialist (see below) or go to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website for more information.
Gopher Tortoise Conservation Biologist
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
Southwest Regional Office
Charlotte County Community Development
18400 Murdock Circle
Port Charlotte, FL 33948-1094
Suzanne.Derheimer@CharlotteCountyFL.gov For additional information, contact Charlotte County Natural Resources Division at 941.613.3220 or CommunityServices@CharlotteCountyFL.gov. Related Links