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Putting gopher tortoises into the ocean in - Daytona Beach area


The above picture is what I saw when I first arrived at the beach this evening. A dead gopher tortoise in the surf, just laying there as the waves lapped away. I took one look and suspected that it was a drowning. This is something that I learned about in my Florida master naturalist classes. Well meaning people see a gopher tortiose up in the dunes area near the beach. They assume it's a sea turtle of some sorts and they are going to be nice and "help" it get back to the ocean. 

The well meaning person carries the animal out to the ocean, thinking they did their good deed for the day. Problem is, the gopher tortoise is a land animal. Sending it out to the ocean typically leads to it drowning, which is likely what happened to this particular one that was ashore in Daytona Beach Shores. 

When the beach patrol stopped to check it out I went to speak to the man and he confirmed what I suspected - that it had likely drown. He went on to say that he sees it all the time. People think they are helping the animal get back to the water, when they are really leading the animal to its death. 

He sees it all the time. That's so sad to me and all we need to do to prevent it is raise awareness.

I felt I had to take a picture and blog about this, hoping to raise some awareness about it, so that in turn it may help save some gopher tortoises. 

When you see a gopher tortoise near the dunes area of the beach (the area back off the beach that has sand, vegetation, and is dry) please keep in mind that it is a land animal. While they can be found anywhere along the beach dunes area, they are especially prolific down at Smyrna Dunes Park (which is ocean side). The gopher tortoise isn't trying to find its way back to sea and should never be carried out there.

Let's spread this message so that we can try to help prevent gopher tortoises from being drown on the beaches in the Daytona Beach area and beyond!


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I returned a crab in my pool to the ocean. I thought it came from the beach bc my pool is technically on the beach. Later, after discussion with wiser friends, I learned it was a land crab. I googled it before I made the decision and got the species wrong. It should have gone on the empty lot next to me. I was sad.


Oh, thank you for sharing that. Another example... your heart is in the right place. It's just a matter of knowing the species. Pass that info on to people so we can raise awareness!

jim sieg

I watched a gopher tortoise walk into the ocean at near the jetties at Newsmyrna Beach I wanted to watch what this land turtle would do. A group of do gooders grabbed the turtle and carried it to the dunes.
What a person should do is observe if an animal wants to walk into the ocean let it be. Don't interfere with nature. That includes a raccoon eating seaturtle eggs. Let nature do what nature will. Observe,don't try to be a part of something you aren't, that being said if you kill it eat it. Hunting is nature.


I agree. While I may help a turtle cross the highway, I don't interfere when they are doing what their natural instincts tell them to do. Good advice!


WHY havent they posted signs?

Donna Harrison

I had no idea people were doing this, thanks for spreading the word!


It would be great if there was a small sign up near the dunes that had a picture of the gopher tortoise and stated that it's a land animal (not water).

David Cooper

I, too, have seen gophers purposely walking into the surf. This may have been the case in Daytona as well. Maybe there should be an investigation by the state to see what the real issue is. If it is human interference, I fully support preventing it. If it's just gophers going for a swim, maybe we could humanely move them.

Kay Radebaugh

It's the same way good intentioned people are with all wildlife they think need our help. Do not give birds and squirrels COWS MILK if you find them out of their nest. Do not give the cute ducks at the park bread. Etc. Oftentimes well intentioned people become murderers because they just don't know better. Leave nature alone or seek a professional if care is clearly needed.


Perhaps a good poster is needed briefly outlining the difference between legs and flippers? What a senseless loss.


Good luck stopping all the tourists from overseas. They need to post signs, I agree, and they should say in big bold letters, "Hey Dummy, Sea Turtles Don't Have Legs & Feet!". Of course, just a bunch more stinking signs to go with the rest that are already posted up everywhere. Maybe it's education we should be focusing on instead. Too many doing stupid crap out of ignorance. Sad but true.


The bottom line is, the majority of people have absolutely no idea where an animal actually belongs... NEVER put an animal IN water! You can place it NEAR the water but let it decide what it needs to do. Really, unless the animal is in immediate danger to its life, it should be LEFT ALONE!!

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