Determining if you need a permit for 10 or fewer burrows
Determining if you need a permit for 10 or fewer burrows
This permit is available when 10 or fewer burrows will be impacted on a development site and the gopher tortoises will be relocated to a suitable on-site or off-site recipient area. The intent of this permit type is to provide a less expensive option for applicants impacting fewer numbers of tortoises; therefore, the amount of information required for the application is reduced. Applications are reviewed by FWC staff, and additional information may be required in situations where submitted information is not clear or does not appear to meet criteria for this permit type.
These permits usually are issued for smaller properties (such as single-family residential lots), but larger properties may also meet the criteria for this permit when development activities are minimal or only a few burrows are present on the property.
If you have...
10 or fewer gopher tortoise burrows on the development site; and you cannot permanently avoid all tortoise burrows on the development site by 25 feet or more, and suitable habitat will remain on-site following site development, or the gopher tortoises will be relocated off-site to a certified recipient site by an authorized agent,
the 10 or Fewer Burrows permit is the right permit for you!
To obtain a 10 or Fewer Burrows permit, the individual handling the gopher tortoise(s) must either complete the online e-Learning curriculum or have an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent permit, and submit a $213 mitigation contribution.
Do I have gopher tortoises on my property?
To determine if you have gopher tortoises on your property, you must conduct a tortoise survey or hire an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent to conduct a survey for you. Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agents have experience in tortoise surveying, trapping, and relocation techniques, and are permitted by the FWC.
Gopher tortoise surveys are conducted by walking along transects and searching for gopher tortoise burrows (burrow entrances). Transects are simply straight, parallel lines, spaced no more than 33 feet apart and should be closer together in densely vegetated areas. These transects must cover all areas inside the development area and within 25 feet of planned development activities (Figure 1). Small properties with low-growing vegetation can be surveyed quickly and easily (e.g., residential lots). Larger properties or those with thick vegetation obscuring the view of burrows can be more challenging, and may take days to complete. For these properties, the use of an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent is recommended.
100% burrow surveys must be conducted over the entire development footprint and submitted as part of the permit application (rather than after issuance of the permit). Survey maps are recommended but not required.
Are the burrows on my property occupied?
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. A potentially occupied gopher tortoise burrow is a burrow that is in good repair and has the classic half-moon shaped entrance. The burrows may have signs of tortoise tracks, droppings, or scrapes from the underside of the shell. However, because tortoises can stay in their burrow for extended periods, especially during the colder months, potentially occupied burrows may have spider webs, dead leaves, or other vegetation around the entrance or apron (the pile of sand at the burrow entrance). The Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines provide a glossary with additional information on the different burrow classifications.
A gopher tortoise and its burrow
On-site or off-site relocation?
When you apply for a 10 or Fewer Burrows permit, you must first determine whether you will have suitable habitat remaining on-site (within the existing boundaries of your property) to relocate your tortoises to, or whether you must relocate the tortoises off your property (off-site relocation).
If suitable habitat remains after site development, it is more economical to relocate the gopher tortoises on-site. Off-site relocation requires 1) an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent who charges a fee for their services; and 2) an off-site recipient site that also charges a fee to accept tortoises. Recipient sites are properties authorized by FWC to receive tortoises and in exchange, help ensure their long-term survival. Mitigation contributions to FWC are the same ($213) regardless of whether you choose to relocate tortoises on-site or off-site.
If suitable gopher tortoise habitat will remain after all clearing, grading, and construction activities are completed on your property, you can relocate the tortoises to that area yourself (or hire an Authorized Agent to relocate the tortoises).
To remain on-site, gopher tortoises need access to the following:
1) sufficient areas of forage (i.e., herbaceous and low-growing plants including native broadleaf grasses, legumes [bean/pea family], asters, blackberries and other fruits, prickly pear cactus, and a variety of other non-native grasses);
2) sandy, well-drained, open (sparsely vegetated with trees and shrubs), sunny sites for burrows and basking;
3) protection from dogs, cats, other exotic predators, human harassment, and busy roads.
If you are unsure whether your property will provide relocated gopher tortoises with suitable habitat, contact your regional gopher tortoise conservation biologist for additional information. If you are hiring an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent, this person can help you make the determination.
All off-site relocations must be conducted by an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent. If you decide to hire an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent for your on-site or off-site relocation, you can view a list of Authorized Gopher Tortoises agents with contact information here. Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agents can handle the entire permit application, capture, and relocation process for you.
Do I need a permit?
Even if gopher tortoise burrows are present on your property, you may not need a permit if all burrows and tortoises can be avoided by at least 25 feet (see figures 2 and 3 below). In situations where a permit is not necessary, all burrows must be located at least 25 feet away from any planned vegetation clearing, grading (ground leveling), construction, or heavy equipment staging areas (such as bulldozers), etc.
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 (see figures 2 and 3 below).
Temporary penning of tortoises to exclude them from development activities
Prior to construction, tortoises being relocated on-site may be penned for up to 10 days after capture while bucket traps or other tortoise trapping activities are in progress. Pens must be at least 100 square feet and provide the tortoises with partial shade, forage, and water. Each pen may contain no more than five tortoises. Once trapping activities are complete or 10 days have passed, whichever occurs sooner, penned tortoises must be released and effectively excluded from the development footprint using temporary fencing.
Figure 2. No Permit is required under this scenario.
You can click on the image for a larger image.
Apply for a 10 or Fewer Burrows permit
If this is the right permit for your situation, you are ready to begin the application process. You can apply for the 10 or Fewer Burrows permit online by selecting one of the applicant options below. The online system will also allow you to check the status of a submitted application. A paper-based application is also available, but online application submission is preferred to help facilitate a more timely review process.
If you are a working on behalf of the property owner but do not have an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent permit, view the application instructions before submitting an application.
If you are a property owner and will be relocating gopher tortoises on-site, view the application instructions before submitting an application.
For More Information
The Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines include the full description of the 10 or Fewer Burrows permit.
If you have questions on gopher tortoise permitting please contact the gopher tortoise conservation biologist in your region.