Rescued Gopher Tortoises Given New Home

Rescued Gopher Tortoises Given New Home

The Humane Society of the United States and volunteers from local animal rescue groups are removing gopher tortoises at the HCM Construction/Cranewoods Development site at the Cottages at Ponce Inlet in Florida. The tortoises will be relocated to a permanent home at Nokuse Plantation in Walton County.

There is no state law to force developers to relocate or remove gopher tortoises before construction, and current Florida regulations also allows construction companies to bury gopher tortoises alive, causing a slow and inhumane death for the animals. A change in a Florida regulation, however, now allows volunteers easier access to rescue and remove gopher tortoises whose burrows are on development sites. HCM Construction, Cranewoods Development, The Humane Society of the United States and the volunteer groups took advantage of these new regulations to remove the tortoises from the site.

“We think 17 tortoises, including several babies, currently live on this site and we will be here until all the tortoises are found,” said Jennifer Hobgood, program coordinator for The Southeast Regional Office. “We applaud HCM Construction for calling us in and encourage other developers to relocate rather than plow over those tortoises currently calling these sites home.”

“From the outset we planned to relocate the tortoises, so we really appreciated the help from The Humane Society of the United States to coordinate their safe removal and transportation to their new home,” said Andrew Howe, president of HCM Construction. “We’re also grateful to the other state agencies in quickly developing a process to help us get this done.”

Monitoring and assessing the tortoises after the relocation efforts will provide crucial information for future projects. All tortoises found at the Ponce Inlet site will be moved to the Nokuse Plantation in Walton County, Florida.

“We are very excited to receive the tortoises from the Ponce Inlet site and commend HCM Construction, FFWCC, and The HSUS for working together to save these animals,” said Matthew J. Aresco, conservation director of Nokuse Plantation. “Reestablishing gopher tortoise populations to historic densities on Nokuse is a key part of the overall restoration plan for our longleaf pine and wiregrass habitats. We will closely monitor the tortoises to ensure they acclimate well to their new home and will specifically manage their habitat so they will eventually be part of the breeding population.”

Nokuse Plantation is a 50,000 acre nature preserve in the Florida Panhandle owned by M.C. Davis established for the purpose of conserving the region’s rich biodiversity in perpetuity.

HCM Construction, founded in 1992 and based in Jacksonville Beach, has broad experience managing projects from concept through completion and works on a variety of projects as builder, general contractor and renovator.

Cranewoods Development, LLC is known for assembling project teams with the creative talent necessary to develop, design and build cutting-edge projects. Cranewoods focuses on specialty and high-demand waterfront markets along the Florida coast.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization with nearly 10 million members and constituents. The HSUS is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals, disaster preparedness and response, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammals, animals in research, equine protection and farm animal welfare. The HSUS protects all animals through education, investigation, litigation, legislation, advocacy and field work. The nonprofit organization is based in Washington and has field representatives and offices across the country.