Florida wildlife officials ask people not to ‘help’ gopher tortoises
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Department has urged people not to “help” gopher tortoise hatchlings to the ocean because they can’t swim.
The state wildlife officials stressed that residents and visitors must keep it in mind that not all turtle species can swim. The suggestion came after at least three instances of people attempting to help gopher tortoise hatchlings to the ocean occurred last month.
Gopher tortoises, which can’t swim and can be easily drawn, nest in dunes near sea turtle nesting beaches, which causes confusion. However, people can easily distinguish gopher tortoises from sea turtles by having a look at their limbs.
While sea turtles have flippers with only 1-2 claws on each fore-flipper, gopher tortoises have toes with claws on each of them. Wildlife officials say that this identification can normally be made even without taking creatures in hands.
Like all five species of sea turtles found in Florida, gopher tortoises are also protected by state law. Thus, visitors must pay attention as a misguided good deed can eventually turn into a crime that could attract penalties.
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