Florida Gopher Tortoises

I just recently survived a near death experience (financially speaking) at the hands (webbed feet?) of a "creep" of gopher tortoises living on a property purchased in Florida. It was an instructive (i.e.,painful) experience, as are most mistakes. Feel free to get in touch if you haven't figured out how to solve your tortoise problem or want to avoid buying a property occupied by these harmless, cuddly (MONSTERS) reptiles.

@Sean-Callahan, sorry to hear it! Wildlife is a somewhat unique (or more extreme, at least) risk of working in Florida, it seems. I did not know about gopher tortoises before your post, but for another example, I know it's a good idea in certain counties to check their list of parcels with identified Scrub Jay habitats, which is a bird that's only found in Florida.

Also, many years ago now, I worked for a land surveying and engineering firm in Florida for a relatively short period of time. We typically surveyed large parcels of vacant land that someone was getting ready to develop. On my first time out on a large tract of raw land, the guy training me was telling me different animal habits to watch out for and I just remember him saying something along the lines: "If you see [this kind of animal or that], let me know. If you think you saw a Florida panther, no you didn't." Apparently nothing would shut down a project quicker than that...and permanently. I also remember we worked on surveying Phase 3 of a very large residential subdivision. There were several hundred single family home lots per phase. Phase 2 was nearly built out. "Phase 1" was still on hold indefinitely, and had been for multiple years, because nests of some other kind of bird had been found.

@Sean-Callahan I’m actually curious to know how you handled this (or how others can avoid it). Not because I think I’ll ever encounter gopher tortoises personally, but if you know of some creative solution for dealing with wildlife, it may apply to a lot of other problematic animals and issues too.

I’m sorry to hear about the problems too. I think we all encounter those unexpected hiccups if you do this stuff long enough.

@dl7573 @retipsterseth David, i am always on the look out for scrub jays as well! Seth, the short of it: I lost 50% on the property, but felt lucky that i was able to offload it on the neighbor, who doubled the size of his lot at a killer price and has no interest in building anything else. I got estimates from two licensed gopher tortoise service providers---the state licensed ones are the only legal providers needless to say. Neither could tell me exactly what removal would cost given that they couldn't tell the tortoises to cooperate, but both gave me a range: $9000-$18000. I paid $4K for the lot. Market value for the lot was $10-12K. Now i'm no business or math genius, but without even using my calculator, I quickly realized this was not a winning deal and went into cutting my losses mode. Contacted neighbors, got lucky with the adjacent one, recovered some of my capital, and left happy to run away from that property as fast as possible with some money returned to the account. As far as how to prevent a recurrence: i don't think short of sending a biologist to survey a lot there's anything close to a 100% solution. Since I'm not going to do that, here's the mitigators I'm considering now for each property I buy: contact neighbors (fastpeoplesearch or mail a letter if you can afford time) to ask about their experience on their property and in the neighborhood: "Seen any tortoises lately?"---in this case, the neighbors told me they watch these tortoises stroll across the street on a daily basis, so this was no secret---no doubt they thought i was an idiot for buying the property and i have to say i agree with them; pay someone to walk the property with your instructions on what to observe and report---along with video/pics of course; if using a realtor, again, be specific on what they should be looking for; research county and government wildlife agency sites---in this case, there's a gopher tortoise overlay available from the FWC that pinpoints tortoise habitats---imperfect, no doubt (does not show my lot or anything very close, for example!), but could raise a caution flag to indicate some additional due diligence is in order. Of course, the mitigator of last resort is paying a fraction of market price to purchase the property, so at least your business isn't ruined, even if you're unable to offload like i did to a willing neighbor.


@Sean-Callahan thanks for sharing your experience. Kind of reminds me of the difficulty in identifying wetland issues, but probably even more challenging to determine.

Sounds like you’ve come up with some pretty good mitigation ideas while still being reasonably efficient.

Well, with srub Jay's at least there are maps, crazy about these tortuses! Thanka for sharing your experience Sean!

Sorry to bump an older post, but I learned about an important distinction yesterday to be sure if you're actually dealing with a gopher tortoise issue or not.
It's easy to mistake gopher tortoise mounds and pocket gopher mounds for each other if it's something new you're encountering or if you just don't know about the pocket gopher.
Gopher Tortoises are obviously a major headache in certain circumstances and the Pocket Gopher is just a mild annoyance in comparison.
Scrub Jays are something new I'm learning about from this thread though, so thanks for that info.

Pocket Gopher Mounds:

Gopher Tortoise Burrows


@retipsterseth , I am under contract for a new construction in Palm Bay, FL and the builder says there was gopher tortoise and they took 5 months to move them to a different site. Apparently cost them around 9 k. I ma hoping my construction can now start.


I work for a local utility as my day job buying real estate interests (easements and fee). Current price to relocate a tortoise to another site is by FWC is ~6K per beast. The State is having difficulty in finding land to relocate them to. Estimate one to two GTs per acre. We have to re-build the power lines on a barrier island. So far 39 burrows and counting. There are different habitat characteristics between barrier island GTs and Land based GTs. Do your research. if the deal warrants hiring a biologist, do it.

@russgoodman are these gopher tortoises an endangered species or something? What makes them more special than any other animal that runs off a property to find a new home when a parcel is developed?

I’m sure there’s something I don’t know. Just curious what the deal is with these things.