FWC: Stop 'helping' gopher tortoises

The FWC has a message for those trying to save gopher tortoises by putting them back in the ocean: please stop.

Last month alone, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received three reports of wannabe good Samaritans releasing gopher tortoise hatchlings into the ocean. However, gopher tortoises live on land, cannot swim well and can easily drown.

Gopher tortoises often nest near sea turtles so it is important to correctly identify which is which before deciding what action, if any, is necessary.

Here's how to distinguish gopher tortoises from sea turtles:

  • Gopher tortoises have toes, with claws on each toe
  • Sea turtles have flippers with only one or two claws present on each foreflipper
  • Proper identification can be achieved without handling the animals

Here are some pictures to help

All five species of sea turtles found in Florida are federally endangered or threatened and managed under the Endangered Species Act as well as under Florida Statutes; the gopher tortoise is listed under state law. If you spot any of these species in danger on the beach, please do not disturb the animal. Instead, call the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or call #FWC or *FWC on your cell phone.

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