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

Recognizing Sanibel’s First Official Gopher Tortoise Day

April 10, 2024
Gopher Tortoise 2 Insta

Gopher Tortoise Day in Florida was first adopted by the Gopher Tortoise Council in 2016 to bring awareness to this state-threatened species. This year, the City of Sanibel is officially recognizing the holiday on the island.

“The gopher tortoise is considered a keystone species and is an essential indicator of ecosystem health …,” the city’s proclamation states. “The recovery of gopher tortoise populations and their habitats on Sanibel will require continued commitment by the citizens of Sanibel.”

Gopher tortoise burrows provide shelter for over 350 other species, and their presence can be used to measure how well the habitat is being managed, said SCCF Wildlife Biologist Mike Mills.

Each year, SCCF conducts a survey of gopher tortoise burrows on five of our properties — Frannie’s Preserve, C. R. Johnston Tract, Dayton Preserve, Walker Preserve, and the Wulfert Gopher Tortoise Preserve. Our 2023 survey revealed that gopher tortoises likely experienced losses on Sanibel after Hurricane Ian, but “this year, several of our preserves had more new burrows on it,” Mills said.

Gopher tortoises prefer open-canopy habitats with diverse, abundant grasses and ground cover plants. When these areas succumb to the succession of woody shrubs and hardwood trees, tortoises often leave the area in search of their preferred habitat.

Learn more about gopher tortoises and how your landscaping choices can help them.


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