Yesterday was actually Florida Gopher Tortoise Day, but as Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says, “you can celebrate gopher tortoises by making your yard tortoise friendly and participating in our new recognition program.”
Georgians, you won’t get a sign, but you can also make your yards gopher-friendly for Gopherus polyphemus.
Gopher Tortoise Friendly Yard Recognition Program
Gopher tortoise in human habitat –FFWCC
Given the gopher tortoise’s statewide range and the fact that more than half of the land in Florida is privately owned, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Gopher Tortoise Program recognizes the critical role that private property owners play in conserving the gopher tortoise and has developed a Gopher Tortoise Friendly Yard Recognition Program to recognize and honor private landowners in Florida for their contribution.
The purpose of the Gopher Tortoise Friendly Yard Recognition Program is to recognize and encourage private landowners to enhance habitat quality and take steps to protect the gopher tortoise and its burrow. Importantly, protection of the gopher tortoise and its burrow will benefit many other species that use the tortoise’s burrow for shelter and foraging and nesting habitat. A secondary benefit is an increased awareness among the general public of the contribution private landowners make to the conservation of gopher tortoises in Florida. This program will assess the habitat improvements the landowner has made to provide forage, protect the tortoise and its burrow, and control invasive species. The private landowners who enhance habitat and take steps to protect the gopher tortoise and its burrow will be recognized with a sign* and certificate for their property, as well as instructions on how to safely install the sign. These recognition signs can be an effective way to increase the public’s awareness of gopher tortoise conservation efforts.
Gopher tortoise friendly yard –FFWCC
A Gopher Tortoise Friendly Yard sign and certificate will be awarded to property owners that take all possible steps to conserve the gopher tortoise(s) that coexist on their properties.
Any property owner that shares a yard with a gopher tortoise can take steps to make the yard ‘gopher tortoise-friendly’ and become eligible for recognition. To apply for recognition, you must sign the Acknowledgement Form, provide contact and property information, and complete the Gopher Tortoise Friendly Yard Checklist. Each application will be reviewed upon submission. Please expect follow up correspondence via the email address provided in the application.
Gopher tortoises are a keystone species, meaning other animals depend on them for survival. The burrows created by gopher tortoises are used by more than 350 other species, called commensals, including the burrowing owl, Florida mouse, gopher frog, and eastern indigo snake.
Figure 6. Examples of other wildlife (called commensals) that utilize gopher tortoise burrows.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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