- Why are permits needed?
Florida Rule 68A-27 , which was established to conserve or improve the status of state-listed threatened or endangered species to prevent extinction and make federal regulation unnecessary, classifies the gopher tortoise as a state-listed threatened species and prohibits the take, molestation, or harassment of tortoises and their nests unless it is authorized by an FWC issued permit. To conduct relocations or disturb the land in a way that impacts gopher tortoises or their burrows without a permit is a violation.
- Are there any activities that do not require a permit under the gopher tortoise guidelines?
Yes, the Gopher Tortoise Enforcement Policy states that permits are not required to conduct agricultural activities, silvicultural (forestry) activities, or activities to improve native wildlife habitat. Such activities include, but are not limited to, tilling, planting, mowing, harvesting, prescribed burning, mowing, disking, roller-chopping, and tree-cutting.
- We are preparing to clear a lot for development and the adjacent lot has an active gopher tortoise burrow that is close to the property boundary. Can we clear our entire lot since the gopher tortoise is on the other lot? What precautions should we take?
It depends. The Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines state that an FWC permit is not required if all gopher tortoise burrows are avoided by 25 feet in all directions during development activities. However, the FWC cannot require or authorize access to relocate a tortoise off of property you do not own. Nevertheless, if land clearing or other development actions on your property occur within 25 feet of the tortoise burrow on the adjacent property, you may still be held responsible if those actions result in the collapse of the tortoise burrow and/or harm the resident tortoise. If you are concerned that the burrow might be affected by clearing or developing activities, please contact the regional gopher tortoise conservation biologist for further direction.
- Does FWC staff relocate tortoises for development projects or personal properties?
No, FWC staff does not relocate tortoises for private citizens, developers, or governments. However, FWC issues permits to authorized gopher tortoise agents who specialize in capturing, marking, and relocating gopher tortoises. You can search for authorized agents in your area by using our online locator map.
- Can I still apply for an "interim incidental take permit" with mandatory relocation?
No, this permit option is no longer available.
- What is the process to become an authorized agent (e.g. capture, mark, and relocate tortoises, and receive and release tortoises at recipient sites)?
The FWC issues Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent permits to individuals who meet the qualifications specified in the permitting guidelines for activities used to survey or to relocate gopher tortoises. The qualifications for becoming an authorized agent can be met by either completing a FWC-approved authorized agent training course or providing proof of adequate experience (see the Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines for details).
- How do I apply to become an authorized agent?
Individuals can apply for a permit through the FWC online permit system. If you are unfamiliar with the online permit system, please review the information found in the online permit fact sheet.
- Does FWC teach authorized agent courses?
No, FWC staff does not teach training courses. However, the FWC has established a curriculum that identifies required topics and content for the training courses that are available for review by those individuals or companies that wish to train. At this time, the Wildlands Conservation and Kleinfelder companies have been approved by the FWC to teach courses.
- My company is interested in teaching authorized agent courses in our area. How would one go about becoming certified to teach gopher tortoise relocation techniques?
You must first submit a proposed course curriculum to Rick McCann for evaluation. The training proposal must include a description of the topics to be taught by instructors who are experienced authorized agents in gopher tortoise survey, capture, mark, and release techniques. The FWC will review the proposal and consider approval for the training course(s) based on the information provided.
- Can I start relocating tortoises after I receive my authorized agent permit?
No, in order to relocate gopher tortoises you must obtain a relocation permit from the FWC, for each specified property, authorizing the capture and possession of gopher tortoises from or within that property.