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Gopher Tortoise Council presentation

March featured a powerpoint, scripted presentation that was developed by the Gopher Tortoise Council and made available to any educator that was interested. I obtained a copy of the entire binder full of information that included just about every aspect of the gopher tortoise that the layman would ever want to know. This also included the slide presentation. For those of you new to Florida, or the south, gopher tortoises, Gopherus polyphemus, is a protected species that is losing ground to rapid development of prime habitat for the tortoises. There are several choices that can be made by the developer. These include ignoring the law and trying to get away with killing tortoises while in the process of building. Several have been caught and fined heavily. Of course, this still does not change the fact that the tortoises died. Other choices are to pay to essentially "kill" a specified number of tortoises while building. Proceeds go to purchase land elsewhere to have other tortoises relocated to. The other choice is to pay someone to relocate the tortoises.

There is much debate as to the direction Florida should go regarding protecting these tortoises, which are known as a "keystone" species because they provide the foundation of much of the upland sandhills habitat. Their burrows provide homes to about 300 documented species of animals, mostly invertebrates.

Gopher tortoises are ILLEGAL to catch or keep incaptivity without a permit. Any tortoises that are found on the side of the road should be moved to the side, BUT REMAIN IN THE SAME AREA!!!!! Upper Respiratory Tract Disease is known to occur in this species and every effort is being made to reduce the number of populations that are infected.

For MUCH more information on gopher tortoises, start with the Gopher Tortoise Council. I also maintain 6 gopher tortoises at Sandalwood High School.

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