Gopher tortoises are protected by state law, Chapter 68A - 27.003, FL Administrative Code. Visit the Gopher Tortoise Home Page for more information on Gopher tortoises.
If you have gopher tortoises on your property, you need to get a FWC relocation permit before disturbing the burrows. A disturbance includes any type of work within 25 feet of a gopher tortoise burrow. Most typical activities associated with residential lawn and landscape maintenance do not require a permit, provided they do not collapse gopher tortoise burrows or harm gopher tortoises.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has fully implemented the Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines (1MB) (April 2008 - revised April 2013). If you have questions regarding the new revisions or implementation of the revised guidelines, please contact Rick McCann at Richard.McCann@MyFWC.com, or by phone at (850) 921-1031.
There are four available options to address the presence of gopher tortoises on lands slated for development:
- Avoid development;
- Avoid destruction of tortoise burrows;
- Relocate tortoises on-site (permit required); or
- Relocate them off-site (permit required).
The Division of Habitat and Species Conservation's, Species Conservation Planning Section (SCPS) issues three types of gopher tortoise relocation permits:
10 or fewer burrows relocation permit
The 10 or Fewer Burrows Relocation permit is for projects, usually single residential construction, which require the relocation of five or fewer tortoises (10 burrows or less).
If tortoises are going to be relocated on-site (within the boundary of the development specified in the application) the individual capturing and relocating the tortoises must complete the FWC online training prior to capturing gopher tortoises. If tortoises will be relocated off-site (outside the boundary of the development specified in the application) a permitted authorized agent must capture and relocate the tortoises.
The Conservation permit is available for development projects which require the relocation of gopher tortoises when more than 10 burrows occur on the development site. This permit allows for relocation either to an on-site preserve or off-site to a FWC-certified Recipient Site. Off-site relocation of tortoises may require testing of tortoises for Upper Respiratory Tract Disease (521KB) (URTD) at the discretion of the recipient site landowner. Applications for Conservation permits are submitted via the online permitting system or to a SCPS Tallahassee and Regional Office.
A Temporary Exclusion permit is available specifically for the installation of major linear utility transmission lines. This option applies to situations that require the temporary exclusion of tortoises from utility construction corridor where habitats within the corridor will be restored to provide suitable habitat for tortoises following completion of utility installation.
For additional information on gopher tortoise relocation permits, refer to the FWC gopher tortoise permitting guidelines . To apply for a gopher tortoise 10 or fewer burrows relocation permit visit FWC gopher tortoise on-line permitting site.
The Disturbed Site permit may be required for development projects where premature disturbance to the ground has occurred before gopher tortoise burrow surveys are complete or before gopher tortoise capture and relocation activities have been completed at the development site. This permit allows for the mitigation and relocation of gopher tortoises from disturbed portions of project sites. Disturbed Site permits are not punitive and will not be issued until all associated FWC law enforcement investigations have been completed. Applications are currently available in paper form.
FWC Policy Protecting Tortoises and Their Burrows
Agricultural, silvicultural, and wildlife management activities which impact gopher tortoises or gopher tortoise burrows do not require a permit if they are conducted in accordance with the Gopher Tortoise Enforcement Policy. These activities include tilling, planting, harvesting, prescribed burning, mowing, disking, roller chopping, and tree cutting. For additional guidance on activities that do not require a permit, refer to the Gopher Tortoise Enforcement Policy.
Incidental Take Permits
Incidental Take (I.T.) permits are no longer available.
This permit application option is no longer available. Please apply for a Conservation permit either via the online permitting system or to a SCPS Tallahassee and Regional Office.
On-site Relocation of Five or Fewer Tortoises
New applications are no longer being accepted for this permit option. Please refer to the 10 or Fewer Burrows permit for gopher tortoise relocation options.
For More Information
If you have questions on gopher tortoise permitting please contact the gopher tortoise conservation biologist in your county.