Florida Man Arrested For Possession Of Endangered Gopher Tortoises Intended To Eat Them

May 21, 2018

A Florida man was arrested after a Martin County Sheriff’s Deputy, responding to a call of “man down,” found a man in possession of a male and female gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) and was attempting to locate other tortoises that he apparently intended to eat. 

One of two gopher tortoises seized from a Florida man who intended to eat them.

Martin County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook

One of two gopher tortoises seized from a Florida man who intended to eat them.

Robert Lane, 28, was arrested at Seabranch Preserve State Park in Stuart, FL., May 20 for possession of the federally protected and threatened species. According to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, Lane admitted to deputies that he intended to consume the tortoises. The case was turned over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Lane faces charges of poaching on state property.

Sheriff’s deputies were able to locate the burrows in which the tortoises were taken and returned the reptiles to their homes. 

Posted by Martin County Sheriff's Office on Sunday, May 20, 2018

While it is perfectly legal to eat certain turtles in certain states, gopher tortoises are a protected species throughout their range and are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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The gopher tortoise is considered a keystone species by scientists, due to its burrowing nature, which then helps an estimated 360 other animal species who take advantage of those networks of tunnels. The tortoise averages about a foot long and can be found along the coastal plains of the Southeastern United States, including South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, southern Alabama, Mississippi, and southeastern Louisiana. It dines primarily on grasses in the wild and can eat beans, corn and most fruit. It is protected throughout its range.


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