With temperatures reaching into the low 90’s in our Oven State and the heir apparent of creatures extraordinaire, I was brought a gopher tortoise by a bunch of my neighbors who had no idea why a one-to-five-pound tortoise would be running at lighting speed (for a turtle) through our streets and alley ways. We allowed our neighbors to put Gopher in a big ole box, then placed the box in shadowy location inside my garage with a fan (lucky Gopher). We fed Gopher lettuce, water and a fresh, garden strawberry, which she clearly enjoyed.
Then we immediately called Saint Charles Veterinary emergency Sunday services, Davenport’s Keystone Cop’s non-emergency number (863-419-3306), All Star Wildlife (888-998-7277), Florida Fish & Wildlife (888-404-3922), and someone known as Mrs. Waters, a local wildlife activist. As it turns out, the best number was the Florida Fish & Wildlife. We were met by a fellow name Officer Kevin Sweat, who gave us the low-down on wildlife rules and laws.
First, gopher tortoises are a threatened, though not an endangered species. This means it is okay to move a tortoise to get it out of danger but it is not okay to relocate it, even if relocation means a few hundred yards away from where you found the creature.
To relocate a threatened species, one needs a permit. That’s where Officer Sweat came in.
It was his job to determine if we, the holders of Gopher, intended to eat her (as apparently some Floridians do) or if our intention was to save her. (Officer Sweat determined Gopher was female.) He said that clearly we were the saving kind.
Officer Sweat took Gopher about 5 PM, just before the rains came in at our house. Thanks to all our neighbors, and especially Mr. Scott Higdon, for bringing Gopher to our house and our attention. Also thank you to the Davenport fire department for helping us reach Officer Sweat. It was an interesting and educational experience on what would have been an otherwise pretty boring Sunday.