Laura Guttridge has been a volunteer for the Vero Beach Humane Society (VBHS) in Florida for many years and learned that a 38 acre site there was under construction – the home to dozens of endangered gopher tortoises.
A controversial state law in Florida allows developers to pay into a land management programme and then plough over gopher tortoise burrows, condemning the tortoises inside to a slow death, which might take six months.
Citizens are not normally allowed to re-locate gopher tortoises. However, The Florida Fish and Wildlife conservation commission changed its rules, putting aside the required complicated permitting process typically required before relocating gopher tortoises, so VBHS could rescue them.
Volunteers would wake up early every morning and search the site for wandering tortoises, and set up bucket traps to catch them. They even excavated burrows, digging deep into their tunnels to find them. One tortoise rescued was injured and needed to be rehabilitated. All the others found and saved were measured, weighed, numbered and photographed before being sent to a holding pen, until they could be released into their new 18 acre preserve. They would be taken outside daily to roam in the Florida sunshine and eat fresh grass while they waited to be released into their new home.
At the end of the rescue, which took months, 31 of the endangered gopher tortoises were saved.
Private land owners can actually be provided with financial incentives by establishing tortoise preserves.
~ Thanks to Laura Simpson, founder of the Great Animal Rescue Chase & Harmony Fund for allowing us to use their information.
www.hsvb.org – Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County.