Gopher Tortoises are considered “Threatened” or a “Species of Special Concern” because their numbers are decreasing, mainly from habitat destruction but also in part by people eating them and their eggs, by raccoons or other predators taking their eggs, and even by fire ants who can kill the hatchlings. The tortoises dig tunnels, which are also protected, that can reach forty feet long and are usually 7-15 feet deep which provide shelter and homes for over 350 other species including Scrub Jays, Burrowing Owls, Snakes, Lizards, Frogs, Mice, Insects, and others. At maturity, Gopher Tortoises are about a foot long and may live to about 100 years. Gopher Tortoises live in sandy, dry areas and feed on Gopher Apples (Licania michauxii), Saw Palmetto Berries, grasses and other herbaceous plants. It is important to leave natural areas in our landscapes and to incorporate native plants to support the local wildlife. Botanical Visions has been a member of the Association of Florida Native Nurseries for many years and we will be assisting with this volunteer opportunity on Saturday.
On Saturday, February 25, we need volunteers to help remove invasive plants which are threatening the Gopher Tortoises by causing habitat loss. In early March, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be visiting the park and may de-list this critical area as a protected habitat for these tortoises. Deerfield Island Park is a Broward County Park which is only accessible by boat and due to park budget cuts, the staff has not been able to control the intrusion of invasive plants. We have only one day to get as many volunteers as possible to clean up the park. Dragonfly Expeditions is coordinating the three minute boat transport to allow volunteers onto the island to work. Tools will be provided and the island has restrooms, soda machines and water fountains. Volunteers are requested to be at the dock at 10:00am but can leave anytime on boats which will be going back and forth regularly throughout the day. Wear clothes that can get dirty, appropriate shoes and bring gloves if you have them. The park is located off of Hillsboro Blvd. on Riverview Road (on the North side of Hillsboro) which is across from the Cove Shopping Center, just west of the Intracoastal. The address is 1720 Deerfield Island Park, Deerfield Beach, Florida. If you are able to help, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.