Turtle and Tortoise Week starts Sunday, April 17th. We know, we usually focus on caring for Fluffy and Fido. However, this topic is very relevant to our area. Up to 90 percent of the country’s sea turtle nesting happens on Florida’s beautiful beaches! As nesting season approaches, this is a good time to shine the light on these stoic creatures. A Sarasota, FL vet discusses turtles and tortoises below.
Florida is home to 26 types of freshwater turtles and five kinds of sea turtles. We are also the home state of several tortoises. One of particular note would be the gopher tortoise. These guys are very important, as their burrows provide habitats for over 350 other species. They’re also the only tortoise found east of the Mississippi. Unfortunately, they are threatened. You can learn more about gopher tortoises and the conservation efforts to help them here.
Turtle Vs. Tourist
Were you wondering what the difference is between turtles and tortoises? It can get a little confusing. All tortoises are technically turtles. The key difference is that tortoises are land animals, while turtles spend some (or most) of their time in the water. There are some anatomical differences as well, but that’s another topic.
Sea turtle protection becomes very relevant every year here in Florida. Nesting season runs between May 1 to October 31st. This is a crucial time for turtles! If you live on the water, use turtle-friendly outside lights, or none at all, on that side of your home. Taking the kids to the beach to make sandcastles? Knock them down after, as the holes can trap mothers and hatchlings. Finally, take care not to leave food or litter on beaches, as it can attract and endanger local wildlife.
Our canine pals love to sniff around and explore things. Be vigilant when walking your pup, and keep him away from any turtles you come across. Not only could altercations seriously injure the turtle, they aren’t safe for your pooch either. Keep dogs away from nests and hatchlings as well. (You can get Fido a turtle-shaped dog toy as a consolation prize.)
What do you do if you find an injured turtle? Contact the Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Center Alert Number at 1-888-404-3922.
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