Environment: Gopher Tortoise Relocation
Prior to beginning any mining operation at its Hardee County, Florida phosphate rock mine, CF Industries conducts an in-depth environmental 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 Commission as a “species of special concern,” the company goes to great lengths to relocate these reptiles.
During the survey, CF contractors find gopher tortoise burrows when they walk through and search every square foot of the property that will be disturbed by mining. These burrows are flagged so the contractors can later go back and carefully remove the tortoises. Each reptile is marked and has its size, gender, health, and location recorded so CF Industries can track the animals’ movements and survival. Other animals living in and around the burrows, such as indigo snakes, mice, frogs, and crickets, are trapped along with the tortoises. Then all the animals are moved to the recipient site – a previously-mined area that has been reclaimed and is of the same type of sandy, shrubby land that is the animals’ natural habitat.
Approximately 500 gopher tortoises have been relocated in the last ten years. The number of these reptiles relocated in any year ranges from 30 to 90, depending on the types of areas mined.