Gopher Tortoise Sign Information
Gopher tortoises and their burrows are often located in natural areas, parks, and neighborhoods where they can experience interactions with people. Although the FWC does not distribute gopher tortoise signs, several local governments, conservation organizations, and local businesses have created informational signage to place in areas to help prevent intentional and unintentional harm to gopher tortoises and their burrows. If you or your organization would like to develop signage for areas occupied by gopher tortoises and their burrows, please consider the following guidelines that have been developed to help ensure accuracy and a positive outcome for the tortoise. It is important to note that in most situations, signs may not be necessary to protect the gopher tortoise or burrow.
- Use simple and consistent language. Keep the information on your signage concise to make it easy for others to understand.
- Show what a gopher tortoise looks like. Including an image of a gopher tortoise or burrow is helpful to those unfamiliar with the species and decreases the chance of an unintentionally harmful interaction between a human and a gopher tortoise.
- Replace signs that become damaged, are no longer legible, or that display outdated information. Make sure your gopher tortoise signage is easy to read and that the information on the sign is correct.
- Make sure signage is constructed from durable and sustainable materials. Signage constructed from weak materials such as paper or that is not securely inserted into the ground cannot withstand potentially harsh Florida weather conditions and could create litter.
- Place the sign in an area with maximal visibility, but not directly on top of or next to a burrow or burrow apron. This precaution serves to keep burrows safe from individuals with harmful intentions, and to ensure that the signage does not create an obstacle for the tortoise when it leaves its burrow.
- Place “Gopher Tortoise Crossing” signs near roadways. This precaution promotes driver and gopher tortoise safety by warning drivers to drive carefully in areas that are frequented by gopher tortoises.
- Make sure that you have legal authority to install a sign if it is not on your land. Installing signs on someone else’s property may be considered trespassing. Installation of gopher tortoise crossing signs along roadway signs will require approval from the county, city or state.
This is an example of an improperly placed sign that may jeopardize the gopher tortoise’s safety.
Sample Sign Text
- Species name: Gopherus polyphemus
- Gopher tortoise burrows provide shelter to more than 350 other species and play a crucial role in sustaining ecosystems
- Gopher tortoises are protected under Florida law, specifically by Florida Statute (F.S.) 379.411 and 68A-27 Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.)
- A violation of 379.411 F.S. is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years imprisonment (F.S. 775.082) and/or a $5,000 fine (F.S. 775.083)
- Depending on the specific threats to gopher tortoises in your area, it may be beneficial to reference one or more of the following laws on your signage:
- It is unlawful to take or transport a gopher tortoise or its eggs from its habitat (68A-4, F.A.C.)
- No person shall possess a gopher tortoise unless authorized by permit (68A-25, F.A.C.)
- It is unlawful to molest, damage, or take a gopher tortoise or its burrow except as authorized by FWC (68A-27, F.A.C.)
- To report a violation of the species protection laws above or an injured gopher tortoise: 1-888-404-3922
- Include an image of a gopher tortoise and/or a gopher tortoise burrow for reference. Photos from FWC’s Flickr gallery are allowed to be used for non-commercial purposes: FWC Photo Gallery