Friday, March 23, 2018

Gopher tortoises in City of Lake Worth. Threats: Cars and bikes, cats, curious kids, and golf balls falling from the sky.

WARNING: Never, ever try to save a Gopher tortoise by throwing it into the water. Turtles can swim. Gopher tortoises can’t!

They’ll sink to the bottom and quickly
drown. Also note:

The nearby John Prince Park, west of the City of Lake Worth, is known to be a habitat for Gopher tortoises and feral cats are a huge threat:
“[F]eral cats have been discovered chewing the back legs off a fully grown healthy adult tortoise.”

Another threat to Gopher tortoises is poaching which is a serious crime:

“Every year, thousands of poachers are arrested nationwide; however, it is estimated that only 1 to 5 percent of poachers are caught. Poachers kill wildlife anytime, anywhere and sometimes do so in particularly cruel ways.”

But there’s good news too!

From the South Florida Water Management District read about Resolution No. 2017 - 0720 to:

“Declare surplus land interest containing 142.61 acres, more or less, in Highlands County, and authorizing the grant to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) of a conservation easement as a condition of the District obtaining a permit from FWC for the purpose of establishing the subject property as a gopher tortoise recipient site.”
 
The future of this endangered reptile, well away
from urban areas, is something we all can
agree is necessary in Florida.
Gopher tortoise (image from Wikipedia): Tortoises are not ‘pets’ to be kept in the backyard for personal enjoyment or entertainment.

One reason that was given several years ago why the City’s Park of Commerce (POC) shouldn’t be improved upon or Neighborhood Road construction and our water/sewer upgrades delayed too is because a Gopher tortoise burrow may be in the vicinity. Another claim is these tortoises can’t be relocated.

That is completely false.

An urban environment of which the POC and the City of Lake Worth are partmost reasonable people can agree is not the ideal place for this threatened species of turtles to live. The creature is trapped because of roads and development and has no way of escape. The near-constant interaction with humans is a safety issue. There are also nature preserves in Florida specifically for creatures such as the prehistoric Gopher tortoise; one is the spectacular Nokuse Preserve here in Florida.

Finding Gopher tortoise burrows, rescuing the reptile and taking them to a safer and more hospitable location is quite common.

Watch this short video of the process:


You can learn more about this reptile at the FWC and find out about the permit process for finding them a new home in a safe place. Let’s do all we can to help these tortoises in our little City of Lake Worth find a new, safe home to live in peace.