Gopher Tortoise Day: All About Florida’s Threatened Species

April 10, 2024

man holding gopher tortoise
Gopher tortoises, a threatened species in the state of Florida, play a vital role in the ecosystems of the southeastern United States.

Gopher Tortoise Day, celebrated every year on April 10, aims to raise awareness and appreciation for these remarkable reptiles.

The state reptile of both Georgia and Florida, gopher tortoises are considered a keystone species. Habitat destruction and damage have caused gopher tortoises to be classified as endangered in Florida. Adults typically measure 6 to 11 inches in straight carapace length, with a maximum of 16 inches.

Their subterranean burrows, which can extend up to 40 feet long and 15 feet deep, provide shelter for at least 360 documented animal species, including threatened and endangered species such as the:

    • Florida pine snake
    • Eastern indigo sake
    • Burrowing owl
    • Florida mouse
    • Gopher frog

Gopher tortoises and their vital burrows are protected by state law. A gopher tortoise relocation permit must be obtained from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) before disturbing burrows and conducting construction activities (Chapter 68A – 27.003, FL Administrative Code).

gopher tortoise relocation in a trench
Tortoises dig burrows and shelter below ground. To relocate the gopher tortoises, excavation holes are created to quickly capture and move them in the most cost-effective way — away from development areas. Depending on the soil type and water table, the excavation holes can get quite large and deep.

Halff has several experienced authorized gopher tortoise agents in Florida who can help acquire gopher tortoise permits and conduct responsible relocations.

These qualified agents are permitted by FWC to ensure the safety of gopher tortoises during relocations. They also ensure that all state policies, guidelines and rules are followed during permitted relocation activities. Authorized agents can assist with surveying, trapping, marking, transporting and relocating gopher tortoises. Halff’s staff also has experience with permitting and managing gopher tortoise recipient sites.

Recent Updates

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided in 2022 to not federally list the gopher tortoise under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as the eastern subspecies does not currently meet the criteria. In contrast, the western subspecies remains federally listed as threatened. This means that the gopher tortoise will continue to be state listed as threatened in Florida, with existing state protections remaining in place.

It is important that scientists, experts and wildlife professionals continue to strategically utilize their best resources to help the gopher tortoise recover and sustain a healthy population across the state. Read more about the gopher tortoise and this recent decision at

closeup of a gopher tortoise

Need expert help from Halff? Our talented environmental professionals bring years of expertise and knowledge for your projects. Contact Environmental Team Leader (FL) Drew Sanders ( or Environmental Project Manager (FL) Joe Brooker ( to get started today.

Contact Halff's Drew Sanders or Joe Brooker (FL)