MANATEE COUNTY — Manatee County will soon be hosting some special visitors at its Duette preserve. Beginning December 1, in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the County’s Natural Resources Department is opening a Gopher Tortoise Long-Term Recipient Site at the preserve.
Gopher tortoises are a Keystone species in dry sandy-upland habitat, and their burrows provide refuge to over 360 other wildlife species. Gopher tortoises and their burrows are protected by State law, Rule 68A-27 F.A.C.
This first phase of the Duette Preserve Long-Term Recipient Site contains 452 acres of quality upland habitat suitable for a sustainable population of gopher tortoises. The program allows tortoises from public infrastructure projects and private entities in Manatee County and central Florida to be relocated to a safe and protected conservation land owned by the County.
This way, the tortoises can stay close to their original home range and thrive under the County’s management. The long-term protection of the species in the recipient site will allow this important species to increase in population size and provide refuge to hundreds of different animals in their burrows.
“With the support of the County Commission, our Natural Resources Department is fortunate to be able to create and maintain this refuge for hundreds of gopher tortoises within their native Florida range,” said Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker. “We are utilizing the public investment which created the 22,000-acre Duette Preserve for this dual-conservation purpose.”
The Duette Preserve Long-Term Recipient Site is considered a win-win solution for gopher tortoises, the County’s natural habitats, and Manatee County community members.
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