Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

Support New License Plate to Protect Gopher Tortoise

May 15, 2023
Gopher Tortoise

The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is a keystone species that is iconic in uplands in the southeastern United States. Keystone species help define the ecosystem. Without their presence, these habitats would be far different or cease to exist. Gopher tortoises provide habitat for over 360 wildlife species throughout their range, some of which exist only in their burrows.

“Unfortunately, gopher tortoises are being pushed out of their habitats due to rapid development,” said SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz. “Gopher tortoises are a threatened species in Florida, but are still subject to frequent relocations, through state programs, due to very high pressure for development.”

Chelsey Vowles, a wildlife rehabber, came up with the idea to have a gopher tortoise Florida license plate after she witnessed countless tortoises being injured or killed while trying to cross the road.

Her passion for healing and protecting tortoises from harm sparked her interest in getting a plate designed by Matt Patterson.

The fees from the sale of this license plate will be distributed to Wildlands Conservation to fund research, education, conservation, upland habitat protection, restoration, and habitat management that will benefit gopher tortoises and other upland species. Up to 10 percent of the fees received will be used for marketing and administration costs for the gopher tortoise license plate program.

For this plate to be produced, a minimum of 3,000 vouchers must be sold. Vouchers are $33 each, with $25 going directly toward gopher tortoise conservation. If you hold a valid Florida Driver’s License or have a Florida-registered vehicle, you are eligible to purchase vouchers for your car, truck, trailer, and/or RV.

“Gopher tortoises are an important part of the natural history of Sanibel and the surrounding islands,” said Lechowicz. “Please support this new initiative.”

Vouchers can be purchased at any time – you do not need to wait until your registration renewal date to order one. To reserve your plate and for more information, visit Wildlands Conservation.


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