Several Islanders had noticed that a posting had mysteriously appeared on the bulletin boards: graphic photos of dead gopher tortoises, killed within a span of a few days. On May 27th the PIE Board heard from Kjell Plotkin, founder of the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Team. She revealed that she had posted the notices. And the Board offered full support of her action.
“I was aggravatingly motivated after receiving phone calls and of residents knocking on my door dramatically upset, wanting to report to someone what they saw and asking what they should/could do” she said in an email to the Board. “Please do not misunderstand, I do not mind the calls or knocks, I mind the monstrous people who have no regard for the life of these animals.”
She went on to say that she promptly grabbed her shovel, container and cleaned up the remains of both tortoises. Kjell then jotted down the appropriate information for the records that the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Team keeps and disposed of the tortoises.
“Both were run over by CARS. They were not even near the edge of the road.” She went on to explain “It is unfathomable that people don't stop when they hear or feel the thud.”
Florida law prohibits any person from killing or wounding gopher tortoises, which are protected as threatened in the state. Violating the law is a third-degree felony and punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both.
Anyone with information should contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Incidents can be reported online or call 888-404-FWCC (3922). Cellphone users can also call *FWC or #FWC or send a text to Tip@MyFWC.com.
As a result of the incident, Kjell created a friendly educational hand-out about the Gopher Tortoise with the intent of asking island rental agents as well as the Resort to include them in rental sign-in packs. The PIE Board will be discussing other ways to improve local education about tortoises. Ideas include reaching out to Island builders and landscape maintenance companies to ask their workers to drive carefully and also focusing on getting the membership and all homeowners to remind all vendors and service technicians (A/C and pool maintenance, pest control) to SLOW DOWN on our roads.