Florida’s population increase has caused an influx of new development. However, what may come as a surprise is that the new development that occurs to accommodate Florida’s population increase causes habitat loss for gopher tortoises and exacerbates the scarcity of viable recipient sites for gopher tortoise relocation. Both the gopher tortoise and its burrow are protected under state law.
Gopher tortoises are important because they are a keystone species. This means the ecosystem is dependent upon them to properly function. Several species, including threatened species such as the Eastern indigo snake, the burrowing owl, and the gopher frog, use gopher tortoise burrows for shelter. When gopher tortoises are lawfully removed from their habitat, they are relocated to a permitted recipient site. “Recipient sites are privately or publicly owned lands of 25 acres or more permitted to accept gopher tortoises needing relocation out of harm’s way from development.” (Source).
Being aware of the importance of gopher tortoises, the effect population increase has on them, and the availability of recipient sites is important to combat the problem of recipient site scarcity. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission explains how to apply for a gopher tortoise recipient site permit. To learn more about gopher tortoises, the recipient program, and how to apply, visit https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/gopher-tortoise/?redirect=gophertortoise.