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June 27, 2013

Gopher Tortoises Rescued in Florida

The HSUS and its affiliates provide more direct care for animals than any other animal welfare group, and it does so through a remarkable array of hands-on programs. In 2012, we provided direct care for more than 100,000 animals. We care for animals through the work of our Animal Rescue Team, our international street dog welfare program, our traveling veterinary teams from the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, our network of five Animal Care Centers, our Pets for Life programs in underserved areas, our Humane Wildlife Services team, our Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust (which manages wild preserves in nearly 40 states), and our Wildlife Innovations and Response Team, which we recently launched to respond to imperiled wildlife displaced by urban development, community growth, and other disruptive activities.

Dave with gopher tortoise
Dave Pauli, Senior Director of Wildlife Innovations
& Response, rescues a gopher tortoise in Florida.

It seems that everywhere I turn, urban wildlife habitat is being cut up or dug up for our commercial and residential and transportation needs. Animals are flushed, struck, crushed, and even buried alive.

This week, staff and volunteers with our Wildlife Innovations and Response Team are hard at work unearthing threatened gopher tortoises at the Rock Springs Ridge construction site in Apopka, Florida. The state permitted this development under its former incidental take policy that allowed the animals to be crushed or buried alive in their burrows. However, the site’s developers, D.R. Horton and Bio-Tech Consulting, called on our expertise to rescue the gopher tortoises and commensal species so they would not be harmed during construction. It’s an example of the humane economy at work, and a company doing the right thing while doing its business.

Digging these animals out of individual burrows is a meticulous process, and we do it over a month’s time. So far we have rescued more than 110 gopher tortoises. These tortoises, including a male who we believe may be the largest gopher tortoise on record in Florida (though it is yet to be confirmed), will be relocated to Nokuse Plantation, a permanently protected 50,000 acre area in Walton County.

Whether it’s our Wildlife Innovations and Response Team rescuing gopher tortoises or helping a displaced rat snake make his 2,000 mile journey home, our Humane Wildlife Services staff reuniting a mother raccoon with her babies, or our Prairie Dog Coalition rescuing and relocating entire family groups of prairie dogs to prevent them from being gassed or poisoned, The HSUS stands committed and  ready to help all animals, no matter how big or small.

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