Sanibel recognizes Gopher Tortoise Day
In 2016, the Gopher Tortoise Council adopted April 10 as Gopher Tortoise Day in Florida to increase awareness and appreciation for the protected species, the city of Sanibel recently reported.
It is considered a keystone species — a species on which other species in an ecosystem largely depend on — and is an important indicator of ecosystem health. Gopher tortoise burrows are home to over 350 species. Unfortunately, due to problems such as habitat loss, disease and poaching, gopher tortoise populations have declined an estimated 60 percent to 80 percent in the last century. Because of this, the gopher tortoise is listed as threatened species and is protected by the state of Florida.
Sanibel sustains and protects a sizeable population of gopher tortoises, which inhabit conservation lands, residential neighborhoods and commercial properties. Due to the upland habitat requirements of the gopher tortoise and potential conflicts with human development activities, gopher tortoises and their habitats on Sanibel have been afforded additional protections.
In accordance with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Gopher Tortoise Management Plan guidelines, the city requires that all development permit applications include the following: identification and location of wildlife habitats of gopher tortoises; a plan to preserve gopher tortoise habitat or to mitigate for unavoidable impacts; verification that gopher tortoises have been protected on the site or have been removed from the proposed area of construction by a state authorized handler according to a plan approved by the city and state.
The city recognizes that maintaining healthy populations of gopher tortoises is essential to sustaining Sanibel’s ecology and sanctuary characteristics. On April 6, the city council issued a proclamation designating April 10 as Gopher Tortoise Day on Sanibel.
To show appreciation and help gopher tortoises, plant their favorite native vegetation to feed on. For a list of gopher tortoise forage plants, visit http://www.mysanibel.com/content/download/23514/145443. Residents also are encouraged to keep a watchful eye for gopher tortoises while traveling across Sanibel by vehicle, bicycle, or on foot. 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.
For more information, visit http://www.mysanibel.com/content/download/24984/156979 or http://www.mysanibel.com/Departments/Natural-Resources/Wildlife-Information/Gopher-Tortoises2 or contact the city’s Natural Resources Department at email@example.com.