Environment: Gopher Tortoise Relocation
Prior to beginning any mining operation at its Hardee County, Florida phosphate mine, CF Industries conducts an in-depth environmental (or pre-clearing) survey of the land to gain an accurate picture of the proposed site’s natural plant and animal life. One animal the company takes special care to locate is the gopher tortoise. Because this species of tortoise is listed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) as “threatened,” the company goes to great lengths to relocate these reptiles.
During the pre-clearing survey, certified professionals locate gopher tortoise burrows as they walk through and search every square foot of the property that will be impacted by mining. These burrows are flagged so the certified professionals can later go back and carefully remove the tortoises. Each reptile is marked and its size, gender, health, and location is recorded. When possible, commensal species in the burrows are captured and relocated. Then all the animals are relocated to a recipient site—which can be an FWC approved, previously-mined area that has been reclaimed and is of the same type of sandy, shrubby land that is the animals’ natural habitat or an FWC approved offsite recipient site.
More than 500 gopher tortoises have been relocated in recent years. The number of these reptiles relocated in any year ranges from 30 to 90, depending on the types of areas mined.