Susan Skinner (City of Satellite Beach Naturalist)
Nearly 60 children and adults joined our shellebration of Gopher Tortoise Day in Satellite Beach. The city’s Planning and Sustainability Department partnered with the local branch of the Brevard County Library to host an educational outreach event on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 12. The Satellite Beach Library was chosen as the location because the property and the neighboring sports park and scrub area host a small population of gopher tortoises that are highly visible to community members.
Although the weather forced the activities to move indoors, everyone enjoyed the time and learned about gopher tortoises, the important role they play as a keystone species and how we can help protect them and their burrows.
A team of volunteers and staff from the Florida Wildlife Hospital provided an educational presentation for about 40 people. The team brought some ambassador gopher tortoises, as well as a box turtle and snake, and taught the group about tortoises and the threats that they face.
The city’s biologist was able to take four small groups on tours of the gopher tortoise habitat outside before the rain began.
Throughout the event, participants could stop in and take part in educational activities, such as a cornhole game featuring commensal species, a gopher tortoise craft, a quiz about the life of a tortoise, and making a gopher tortoise headband.
The library staff set up a story walk of “At Home with the Gopher Tortoise” by Madeleine Dunphy. With the poor weather, the walk circled the inside perimeter of the library for everyone to enjoy the book. Volunteers and the city’s natural resources staff hosted an outreach table with educational displays, brochures, FWC decals, and coloring pages for those in attendance.
A display of native plants that are good gopher tortoise forage foods also encouraged those attending to consider their landscaping choices. The plants now will be planted in the scrub area near new educational signage about gopher tortoises and their habitat that is being installed. The natural resources staff is part of the city’s new Planning and Sustainability Department, and this program was our first ever such event. The funding from the Gopher Tortoise Council made the event possible as well as the support of the Satellite Beach Library and the Friends of the Library group.
The City of Satellite Beach was a recipient of one of GTC's Gopher Tortoise Day Grants. If you or your organization is interested in applying for funding to help host a successful and engaging Gopher Tortoise Day event next year, visit our GTC Grants page to learn more about this funding opportunity.