I walk to the gym everyday just a little over two miles each way. A good part of my walk is along Barna Avenue which on one side is all crappy apartments, but the other side of the road, the West side, is undeveloped land. It looks to me as though it was a farm many many years ago, but is very overgrown now and only a small part of the property is still maintained. While walking along Barna, on the West side, I often see wild animals, opossums, armadillos, snakes, turtles, and other critters. Back in February, I’d seen a turtle, though I knew it wasn’t a ‘regular’ turtle, and took a pic of it.
I watched this little ‘guy’ a bit, took the pic, and continued on my way. A few days later while walking along my route, after I’d noticed the city had mown the grass, I found bits and pieces of a small turtle in roughly the same spot I’d see this one. I was quite sad and wished I’d pointed him back towards the woods, but it was too late now, though I still mourned it’s death a bit. I hadn’t seen any for quite awhile and figured it was alone.
On Saturday Sept. 26th, 2015, while I was walking home from the gym, I saw another one of these ‘turtles’ and photographed it too. It was dangerously close to the road, so after taking it’s pic, I told it that it was too close to the road and picked it up. I placed it on the opposite side of the sidewalk, closer to the undeveloped land, and it quickly made it’s way back into the woods. This time I paid closer attention to it, and noted that it too was not a ‘regular’ turtle and wondered if it was an endangered Gopher Tortoise. I’d only ever seen one before, and it was an adult, on a friends property in Melbourne, Florida. He’d told me it was endangered and he couldn’t touch it or do anything with it, but we did watch it on occasion as I love wild animals.
I contacted a biologist from NASA who handles the Wildlife Refuge on Merritt Island, just across the Indian River Lagoon from Titusville. I sent her the photo I’d taken and told her where I’d seen it. I received a response today from her and she said it was indeed an endangered Gopher Tortoise and told me whom I needed to contact locally to inform them of it’s whereabouts. I contacted the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission and alerted them to it’s location, and then called one of the Real Estate agencies handling the sale of this land. Now if the land sells and is developed, the Tortoises have to be relocated before any work can be done on the land.
There is one more real estate agency handling part of this huge chunk of land, and I’ll get the number and name tomorrow as I walk past it, so I can inform them too of my discovery. I just hope I’ve saved this tortoises life so it will have a long and healthy life long past me!
Gopher Tortoises in the wild, can live between 40 – 60 years old, and in captivity, can live to 100 years old! They reach app. 9 pounds and are rather large, though nothing like the tortoises of the Galapagos, which reach 400 pounds or more and are huge!
***As of October 3rd, 2015, I’ve made contact with the other real estate company handling sales of this land, and even contacted the City Maintenance Crew to alert them of the Tortoises presence. I suggested they only edge the sidewalk and mow the grass closest to the road, but not on the side of the undeveloped land.