Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Gopher Tortoise crime

Friday morning I was driving north on Dale Mabry (6-8 lanes, cars driving around 50 mph) when I saw this guy, an endangered gopher tortoise, crossing the west side of the street. He was in the left lane approaching the median. How he had made it that far in the tail end of rush hour traffic I have no idea. I pulled over into the next center turn lane, threw on my blinkers (well I thought I did, turns out I threw on my rear window defroster), and ran back to grab the tortoise who was now on the median about to cross the other side of the street. I put him on the floor in front of the passenger seat and drove home quickly. I thought we would probably have to release him somewhere more appropriate though I wasn't sure he was a gopher. But we have rescued plenty of turtles and released them in our yard. After all, while it is fenced in, the fence doesn't go into the ground and it's easy for them to leave. And if they leave out the back there's a creek and preserve. Good for turtles. Maybe not for tortoises, but better than Dale Mabry.
I came home lunchtime and he was still there, hanging out in front of some bushes in what we call our pond yard, a non-grassy part of the yard with a little pond near the back door. I let the dogs meet him and he was cool about that. There he is with Marley.

When Mark came home the tortoise was still hanging around, so Mark called a gopher/wildlife person in Jacksonville who said I had done the wrong thing, in fact, the illegal thing. I could not remove a gopher tortoise, only help to the other side of the road. Obviously this person does not know Dale Mabry Highway as I would clearly only have delayed his death slightly had I simply put him in the parking lot that is either side of Dale Mabry. But Mark started working on a list of possible places we could release him close to where he was found.

By the time I got home from work it was a moot point. He'd found his own way out and I hope a safer home. Hard to find now that they have paved almost all of the gopher tortoise's habitat. In fact, developers have a choice when they are building in a gopher habitat -- move the tortoises to another location, or pave over them and pay a fine. What do you think those developers usually choose?

Think about all the buildings we enter every day in Florida that are built over gopher tortoise graveyards.


barbara said...

You were very brave.

Abby C. said...


I'm proud of you, and glad that you're not afraid to commit sins. Remember, "It is better to ask forgiven than permission." I'm hoping tortoise is happy.

Susan O said...

Yesterday Mark found the tunnel the tortoise dug under the fence. He went out the back by the creek. Our hope and belief is that he would have walked around the creek to get to the preserve on the other side (we know he wouldn't have swum across but there's a way to walk across down maybe 1/4 mile). And is living there happily.
Mark filled in the space as it was about the right size for a little dog to wriggle under. Or a little gator.

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