ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Thirty-three Florida gopher tortoises have been relocated, after being displaced by the I-4 Ultimate construction. The tortoises are a threatened species, and they’re protected by state law.
Deborah Burr, the head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Gopher Tortoise program, tells FOX 35 that anytime there is a development or land clearing, like what’s going on up and down I-4, that impacts their burrows. The tortoises need to be safely relocated first.
“We look at any potential construction within 25 feet of a gopher tortoise burrow as impact,” Burr said. “Those are the ones that would have to be relocated.”
FWC issued permits in June to Tampa based private environmental consultants Scheda Ecological Associates to safely capture and relocate the tortoises to their new home on 1,500 acres of private conservation land in Osceola County, where the tortoises will settle and build their own burrows.
The I-4 Ultimate project map shows clusters of gopher tortoises concentrated near the Altamonte Springs and Longwood exits for State Road 436 and State Road 434, respectively.
FWC believes most, if not all, of the tortoises affected by I-4 Ultimate construction have now safely been moved.