Florida wildlife officials are warning that residents or tourists shouldn’t put the Gopher Tortoise in the water due to the fact that the turtle can’t swim. That’s a problem that wildlife officials in the state warn could be a problem moving forward for the overall population – as some feel they’re doing something good for the tortoises in the process. The truth is that they’re harming the turtles and, in the long run, will be doing more damage to the population, than any good gained from moving them to water.
Florida officials point out that there is often a lot of confusion because the Gopher Tortoises nest so close to sea turtles. However, while they may nest in the dunes near these sea turtles, the gopher tortoises are not sea-baring creatures. In fact, they swim quite poorly in comparison to other turtles. Florida wildlife officials point out that in the long term – these turtles are left to drown when the individual feels that they’re helping them to survival.
Officials pointed out at least three instances that were caught last month where residents or tourists believed they were helping hatchlings get to the ocean – when in reality they were bringing them someplace that they really cannot survive. While the gopher tortoises can somewhat swim – their skills are not that of their sea turtle neighbors who are good swimmers. Instead, they’re left floundering in many cases where the gopher tortoise could easily die.
At this point, officials warn that it’s a matter of time before the impacts begin pushing the tortoises away from their natural breeding grounds and force the animals to find new locations to safely exist. It’s not just a population concern, it’s an environmental concern – but at this point it’s unclear what exactly Florida plans to do beyond trying to educate locals and tourists on the matter.
Officials even note that typically an individual should be able to identify the tortoise without handling the creature or causing it any harm. Which should be the first practice of anyone looking to help any wildlife. Identification is key, and that is important to remember when understanding how to handle a creature like this.