Gopher tortoise burrows filled with concrete on Marco Island

Published: May 12, 2022 8:49 PM EDT
Updated: May 12, 2022 10:06 PM EDT

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating after several gopher tortoise burrows were filled in on Marco Island.

Gopher tortoises are a threatened species that are protected under state law.

The property on Marco Island where the Burrows were filled is home to about 30 gopher tortoises. On Thursday morning, it was discovered that someone, or a few people, don’t want these guys here.

Marco Island police and FWC discovered that eight burrows had been filled with pieces of concrete from a construction site nearby and then run over with a truck.

“It’s really devastating. Really hard to see someone have this intent, especially as a species is declining in our area,” said Brittany Piersma, field biologist for Audubon Western Everglades.

Piersma rushed over to make sure these gopher tortoises were unharmed. “We did find one alive tortoise that was completely barricaded by concrete blocks inside of there and the other tunnels we did not find any tortoises. We dug as much as we could at times if there’s a lot of compacting from the vehicles and may take time for these tortoises to dig out,” said Piersma.

“It’s really horrifying, it was really alarming and really disturbing,” said Darcy Mouton of Marco Island.

Why would someone harm the tortoises and their homes? One reason is they want this piece of land, and Piersma says the high cost to pay for the relocation of these tortoises is what could have led to this cruel act.

“Education and awareness and just the species is something we’re trying to push for protections. There are proper permits to go the right route of removing the species and ensuring that everything is safe. This is definitely not the route you want to go,” said Piersma.

“Not everybody cares as much for the gopher tortoises as some of us do and I find that unfortunate,” said Mouton.