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!