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Do not put Gopher tortoises in water They cannot swim and will drown say Florida Wildlife Officials

Do not put Gopher tortoises in water. Image credit Max Pixel
Do not put Gopher tortoises in water They cannot swim and will drown say Florida Wildlife Officials

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking people to please not put gopher tortoises in the water. Gopher tortoises are not equipped to swim and they can easily drown.According to NBC 6 South Florida, there were three cases of people trying to help gopher tortoise hatchlings get to the ocean last month.Tortoises have claws for burrowing, not fins like sea turtles have, and are not streamlined like a turtle.

Officials say gopher tortoises often nest in dunes near sea turtle nesting beaches, leading to the confusion. Gopher tortoises unlike most other species of tortoise cannot swim.Gopher tortoises can be distinguished from sea turtles by their limbs. They have toes with claws on each toe, while sea turtles have flippers with only one or two claws on each fore flipper. Officials say identification can usually be made without handling the reptiles.

Gopher tortoises are considered threatened and the keystone species is protected by state law, according to FWC. Like all five species of sea turtles found in Florida, gopher tortoises are also protected by state law and managed under the Endangered Species Act as well as under Florida Statutes.

A variety of resources are available online to help people learn the differences between the different types of animals; turtles, terrapins and tortoises. They all look roughly similar at first glance and obviously come from common ancestors but lead very different lives.According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the loss of habitat including important nesting grounds, accidental bycatch of turtles by the fishing industry and vessel strikes have all contributed to the current decline in numbers. Under US law, 10 sea turtle species are currently listed as endangered and six others are listed as threatened .

Many tortoise species are also listed as endangered or threatened. This includes the gopher tortoise which has also seen much of its habitat lost to development or divided by roadways. The FWC added that that if you see any of the tortoises in need of help, do not attempt to save them but instead call FWC s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or call #FWC or *FWC on your cell phone.

Do not put Gopher tortoises in water They cannot swim and will drown say Florida Wildlife Officials