NARRATOR: The gopher tortoise… …a long-lived reptile that makes its home in upland habitats throughout Florida. Its burrow provides a home for more than 350 animal species, including insects. Because of this, the gopher tortoise is known as a keystone species, serving as the backbone of the plant and wildlife community in which it lives. In Florida, the gopher tortoise is listed as a state-threatened species. Both the tortoise and its burrow are protected under state law. Conservation of gopher tortoises relies not only on the efforts of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, but also on Florida’s citizens. There are many ways to co-exist with these gentle creatures. DEBORAH: If a gopher tortoise is living in your yard, embrace the opportunity to learn about this threatened species and ways you can join conservation efforts. If possible, please avoid disturbing the area around the burrow. It is important to leave the tortoise alone and keep dogs and children away from its burrow. Tortoises are often found near the road where it is open and sunny. When driving, scan the road for gopher tortoises. They are slow-moving creatures. If possible, give them time to safely cross. You may help the tortoise cross the road by placing it out of harm’s way in the same direction that it was going. Do not put the tortoise in your vehicle or bring it to a different area. And never put your life in danger to move the tortoise. Another way you can help is to download the free FWC gopher tortoise application on your smartphone. This citizen-science portal helps the FWC gather data on where gopher tortoises are located. The app allows you to take a picture of a gopher tortoise or burrow and record its location. It also contains fun features, such as gopher tortoise facts, how to help and a quiz. NARRATOR: The FWC is working hard towards the conservation of gopher tortoises, but it also takes the help of Florida’s citizens. For more information on the gopher tortoise, visit MyFWC.com/GopherTortoise.