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Celebrate Gopher Tortoise Day This Weekend by Making Your Yard Gopher Tortoise Friendly

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Photos courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
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That could include planting native forage for tortoises, protecting tortoises and their burrows, and controlling invasive species on the property.

Florida-April 8, 2022: Sunday April 10 is Gopher Tortoise Day and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) hopes residents will mark the occasion this weekend by making their yards gopher tortoise friendly. That could include planting native forage for tortoises, protecting tortoises and their burrows, and controlling invasive species on the property.

Gopher tortoises are a protected species. It is illegal to harm a gopher tortoise, its eggs or its burrow, to relocate without a permit, or to possess a tortoise, its eggs, or any parts of a tortoise.

More than half of the land in Florida is privately owned and private property owners are critically important in preserving the habitats for gopher tortoises. Gopher Tortoise Day was adopted in 2016 to encourage people to help protect this threatened species.

Spring is an active time for the tortoises and here are some ways residents can help:

• Report sightings of gopher tortoises or notify the FWC of a sick, injured or dead tortoise.

• If you see a gopher tortoise crossing a road and it is safe for you to do so, you may pick it up and place it in a safe location along the roadside in the direction it was heading. Never put tortoises in water, as gopher tortoises can’t swim like turtles can.

• Report wildlife violations to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

• Consider volunteering with the FWC on gopher tortoise conservation efforts. For more information on volunteering with the FWC or to request an application, email: GTEvents@MyFWC.com.

Any Florida property owner can take steps to make their land gopher tortoise friendly. Private landowners who take these actions to protect gopher tortoises and their burrows can register with the FWC to have their yard recognized as “gopher tortoise-friendly.”

“The Gopher Tortoise Friendly Yard Recognition Program helps recognize and encourage landowners to enhance habitat and help protect gopher tortoises and their burrows,” said FWC’s Gopher Tortoise Program Coordinator, Katherine Richardson. “These kinds of efforts also benefit many other species that use tortoise burrows for shelter, foraging and nesting habitat.”

The FWC recognizes private landowners who take part in the program with a sign for their property and a certificate. To apply for recognition, landowners sign an Acknowledgement Form, provide contact and property information, and complete the Gopher Tortoise Friendly Yard checklist.

Participating in this recognition program can be a great way to increase awareness of gopher tortoises and advocate for conservation efforts.

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Image courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
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The FWC recognizes private landowners who take part in the program with a sign for their property and a certificate.

This Gopher Tortoise Day, share your appreciation on social media. Use #GopherTortoiseDay on your social media posts and share photos of gopher tortoises you spot.

Looking for other ways to celebrate Gopher Tortoise Day? Go to GopherTortoiseDayFL.com for information and activities for April 10 and all year long, including a resolution template for your community to adopt Gopher Tortoise Day, a guide to living with gopher tortoises and ideas for kids’ activities, such as fun gopher tortoise coloring pages and the Gopher Tortoise Field Trip Guide.

Learn more by visiting: https://myfwc.com/news/ and clicking on “Spring Wildlife News.”

Find out more about Florida’s only native tortoise at https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/gopher-tortoise/?redirect=gophertortoise.