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Gopher Tortoise Permits

Existing gopher tortoise state protections remain in place

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife decision to not federally list the eastern distinct population segment of gopher tortoises is a significant success, however there is still work to be done. The gopher tortoise will continue to be state-listed as Threatened in Florida and existing state protections will remain in place.

Gopher tortoises and their burrows are protected by state law, and a gopher tortoise relocation permit must be obtained from FWC before disturbing burrows and conducting construction activities (Chapter 68A - 27.003, FL Administrative Code). A disturbance includes any type of work within 25 feet of a gopher tortoise burrow. For information on gopher tortoise relocation permits, refer to the FWC Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines webpage. Most activities associated with residential lawn and landscape maintenance do not require a permit provided activities do not collapse gopher tortoise burrows or harm gopher tortoises. For additional guidance on activities that do not require a permit, refer to the Gopher Tortoise Enforcement Policy.

Close up of a terrestrial ecosystem-dependent species, the gopher tortoise

Do I Need a Permit?

Even if gopher tortoise burrows are present on your property, you may not need a permit if all development activity will avoid burrows and tortoises by at least 25 feet. This includes planned vegetation clearing, grading or ground leveling, construction, or heavy equipment staging areas such as bulldozers, etc. Routine yard maintenance and landscaping activities that do not harm tortoises or collapse burrows do not require permits.

Whether a permit is required or not, temporary exclusion fencing (black fabric fencing or "silt fencing" used on construction projects) should be used to protect tortoises and burrows not directly impacted by preventing those tortoises from entering the area where construction activities are occurring. 

How do I know if I have gopher tortoises on my property?

Gopher tortoise burrows are classified as either potentially occupied or abandoned. A permit is required when a potentially occupied gopher tortoise burrow will be disturbed or otherwise damaged. Visit our gopher tortoise burrow identification page for a photo guide for determining if a burrow is potentially occupied. The Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines also provide a glossary with additional information on the different burrow classifications.

Access FWC’s online permit locator map to find:

  • An Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent
  • Gopher Tortoise Recipient Sites
  • Active and Completed Relocation Permits