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10 or Fewer Burrows Permit

If you have...

  • 10 or fewer gopher tortoise burrows on the development site, and
  • you cannot avoid disturbance to 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 permitted recipient site by an authorized agent,

then...

the 10 or Fewer Burrows permit is the right permit 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 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. For projects requiring a permit, temporary exclusion fencing must be installed prior to on-site relocation of tortoises. 

Two example site plans with tortoise burrows outside of development area. Items notated on the first plan are home, lawn, silt fence, buffer zone, and burrows. Second plan has building, parking lot, retention pond, boundary, development footprint, silt fence, burrows, and undisturbed green space.

Example site plans. No permits are necessary in these examples as the tortoise burrows are outside of the 25-foot burrow around the development footprint.

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

100% burrow surveys must be conducted over the entire development area. Survey maps listed in Appendix 4 are required for 10 or Fewer Burrows off-site permit applications and are recommended for 10 or Fewer Burrows on-site permit applications, unless specifically requested by FWC staff reviewing such applications. 

Rectangle representing the property boundary with alternating direction vertical arrows representing survey transects inside

Example survey showing transects (arrows denote direction traveled).

Gopher tortoise surveys are conducted by walking along straight lines, called transects, through the development area and searching for gopher tortoise burrows. Additional information on identifying tortoise burrows can be found in our gopher tortoise burrow identification guide.

Transects should:

  • be simple, straight, parallel lines
  • be spaced no more than 33 feet apart, but closer together in densely vegetated areas.
  • cover all areas inside the development area and within 25 feet of planned development activities. 

The surveyor should classify each located burrow as potentially occupied or abandoned. See more information below. 

Landowners can conduct surveys for 10 or Fewer Burrows Permits. You can also hire a Gopher Tortoise Agent. This is recommended for larger properties or those with thick vegetation obscuring the view of burrow.

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.

What is the difference between on-site and off-site relocation?

A 10 or Fewer Burrows Permit allows tortoises to be relocated either on the property (on-site) if suitable habitat will remain or off your property (off-site relocation) if suitable habitat will not remain. If suitable habitat remains after site development, it is more economical to relocate the gopher tortoises on-site as there are additional costs associated with off-site relocation related to hiring an Authorized Gopher Tortoise agent and relocating tortoises to a recipient site. Mitigation contributions to FWC are the same ($234) regardless of whether you choose to relocate tortoises on-site or off-site. 

 

gopher tortoise emerging from burrow

If suitable gopher tortoise habitat will remain during and after all clearing, grading, and construction activities on your property, tortoises can be relocated on-site. The onsite recipient area must include at least 750 square feet of suitable gopher tortoise habitat that is at least 10 feet wide (e.g., 10 ft by 75 ft). Half of the recipient area must be at least 25 feet from construction boundaries.  

You or a Registered Agent can move tortoises on-site after completing the 10 or Fewer Burrows Permit e-learning course and receiving a 10 or Fewer Burrows Permit. See How to Apply for more information. A Registered Agent is an individual that has submitted a Registered Agent profile in the FWC online permitting system. Registered agents are limited to two 10 or Fewer Burrow Permits in a 12-month period.

You may also hire an Authorized Agent to relocate the tortoises.

If suitable habitat will not remain on the property boundary, then an off-site relocation is required.

Off-site relocations require 1) an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent who charges a fee for their services; and 2) an off-site recipient site that charges a fee to accept tortoises.

Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agents can handle the entire permit application, capture, and relocation process for you.

Find an Authorized Agent

What is suitable habitat?

Sandhill Community on Fort White Wildlife and Environmental Area

Suitable habitat has:

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, canals and busy roads.

4) The onsite recipient area must include at least 750 square feet of suitable gopher tortoise habitat that is at least 10 feet wide (e.g., 10 ft by 75 ft). Half of the recipient area must be at least 25 feet from construction boundaries.

If you still have questions about the suitability of the on-site recipient area (e.g., vegetation appears overgrown, no suitable forage, public roads, canals, etc.), please contact the FWC Gopher Tortoise Conservation Biologist in your region.

How do I make a temporary pen?

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. A full list of requirements for tortoise pens is available in the Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines.

How do I apply for a 10 or fewer burrows permit?

Please read the instructions before applying to ensure you are submitting a complete application. 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 $234 mitigation contribution.

  • Instructions if you are working on behalf of the property owner but do not have an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent permit
  • Instructions if you are a property owner and will be relocating gopher tortoises on-site

For more information

The Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines include the full description of the 10 or Fewer Burrows permit.

For additional questions, please contact the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Biologist in your region.