Tortoise deaths dismay neighborhood
Someone may or may not be intentionally killing protected gopher tortoises along a block of Dogwood Drive on Marco Island. Five dead ones have been spotted either in the road or at the side of the road in the past five months.
Their carapaces have been crushed, most likely by cars, and resident Marie Remick is suspicious that not all have been accidental.
“It just doesn’t feel right,” said Remick, who sent out email alerts to all residents on the block, which is on high ground to the east of the Shops of Marco center.
“In the 12 previous years I’ve lived on this block, I’ve seen just two,” she wrote in the email. “If you see anyone targeting these creatures while driving on our block, please try to take note of vehicle type, color or license number.”
Saturday two weeks ago, student and Dogwood Drive resident Ian Campbell was on his skateboard when he saw a vehicle crushing a turtle, but said he couldn’t tell if it was accidental or on purpose.
“It was a bronze minivan. It looked like he knew he hit it, but he didn’t stop,” Campbell said.
The solution, he said, might be for a slower speed limit on that particular section of Dogwood Drive. At the top of the hill, there is a tortoise crossing sign.
Remick said drivers who’ve hit tortoises during the time in question are obviously not people who live on the street.
“All the neighbors slow down,” she said.
City environmental specialist Chad Chustz said he’d been aware of one tortoise death in the area in late 2015. It was thought to be accidental, possibly due to a landscaper mowing an empty lot and not seeing the creature.
“But five is significant,” Chustz said. “I spoke with an FWC (Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission) biologist, who said that they would pay closer attention and start fining if it was a repeat occurrence.”
He said he would relay any future reports to the FWC.
FWC public information coordinator Carli Segelson supplied information that states vehicle-caused mortality and injury of gopher tortoises and other turtles occurs more often during mating and nesting season.
“If it is safe to do so, people can help tortoises across roadways by placing them off the road shoulder in the same direction they were traveling. Tortoises are land turtles, therefore do not place them in water,” says the FWC.
The city’s Chustz said the bigger concentrations of tortoise populations can be found at the Dogwood block, as well as sections of the Estates area (Indian Hill) and also Hideaway Beach. His contact number for injury reports (and other wildlife issues) is 389-3949.
If you encounter injured or dead tortoises, visit myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/gopher-tortoise/help/#road.