• Signs up at St. Johns County beaches in attempt to save gopher tortoises from uninformed people

    By: Lorena Inclan , Action News Jax


    PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - St. Johns County is putting out a new warning sign to protect gopher tortoises.

    The threatened species is occasionally becoming the victim of well-intentioned but ill-informed people.

    Ten signs are now up at beach access points throughout the county letting you know not to put gopher tortoises in the water.

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    A gopher tortoise strolled in front of Action News Jax cameras Tuesday at Micklers Beach.

    But unlike its cousin the sea turtle, the gopher tortoise actually prefers to stay on dry land.

    St. Johns County Environmental Supervisor Tara Dodson said there’s a big difference between the two.

    “Sea turtles swim in the sea and they have flippers and gopher tortoises navigate on land and they have claws,” Dodson said.

    But not everyone knows that.

    “No, I don't know the difference,” said beach-goer Teresa Wargl.

    Last month Action News Jax showed you how Nassau County leaders were also posting signs after encountering the same problem.

    Dodson said too many people are unintentionally harming the endangered species.

    “They can't swim. We have found a few dead that have washed up this year,” said Dodson.

    You may sometimes see gopher tortoises go to the water.

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    “It doesn't mean they're trying to go into the ocean, they're just cooling off,” Dodson said.

    The hope is these visual aids will get the point across that gopher tortoises don’t swim and are protected species.

    “I think that's great because you need to protect the wildlife,” Wargl said.

    Some of the same signs have also been posted at county parks to prevent people from putting the turtles in ponds.

    The signs were given to the county by the Florida Wildlife Federation through donors.

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