As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit conservation organization, part of our mission is to share accurate and up-to-date information with environmental professionals who work hands-on with threatened and endangered species. Wildlands Conservation offers Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission-approved training courses that meet the requirements for the Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent permit.
Our instructors are experts in gopher tortoise biology, permitting, relocation, and research, including Dr. Henry Mushinsky, a Professor Emeritus in Biology and former Graduate Director of the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of South Florida (pictured above). He has served as an advisor and a collaborator with Wildlands since the organization’s inception in 2003, and is currently the Chair of Wildlands’ Board of Directors. Henry has published over 120 papers on Florida’s indigenous herpetofauna, habitat restoration, and Florida ecology, as well as co-authored the leading text on North American tortoises, Biology and Conservation of North American Tortoises.
Gopher Tortoise Ecology & FWC Permitting Guidelines
No authorization provided, but a prerequisite for the following courses.
Survey Techniques for Development Sites
Successful Completion results in the authorization to conduct Gopher Tortoise Surveys.
Capture and Transport of Gopher Tortoises
Successful Completion results in the authorization to transport and capture tortoises via Bucket Trap, Live Trap, and Hand Shovel Excavation.
Recipient Site Surveys, Monitoring, and Management
Successful Completion results in the authorization to Mark, Transport, and Release tortoises.
Supervision of Burrow Excavations Using Mechanical Equipment**
Successful Completion results in a reduction in experience required from the supervision of 50 burrow excavations and capture of 20 tortoises to 30 burrow excavations and 12 tortoise captures.
**Only taught to small groups in conjunction with a permitted gopher tortoise relocation project.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Introductory Authorized Agent Training (GT1000 & GT2000): A four-day course which introduces students to tortoise biology, permitting, and surveys. Successful completion of this course will allow students to conduct surveys, but they will be unable to apply for gopher tortoise relocation permits without an authorized capture method.
Basic Authorized Agent Training (GT1000, GT2000 & GT2500): A five-day course which covers all of the requirements to become an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent to conduct surveys, submit permit applications for relocation projects (10 or Fewer Burrow Permits, Conservation Permits, and Disturbed Site Permits only), capture tortoises (using bucket or live traps, or hand shovel excavation), and transport tortoises.
Offered on a case-by-case basis depending on the infraction.
Continuing Education Units
The Wildlife Society has approved the following Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in Category I of the Certified Wildlife Biologist® Renewal/ Professional Development Certificate Program for the successful completion of the following Wildlands Conservation gopher tortoise authorized agent training courses:
- Ecology and Natural History of Gopher Tortoise: 5 CEUs
- Gopher Tortoise Permitting Process and Guidelines: 5 CEUs
- Gopher Tortoise Survey Techniques: 7 CEUs
- Gopher Tortoise Capture Procedures: 5 CEUs
- Gopher Tortoise Marking, Transport, and Release: 3 CEUs
- Gopher Tortoise Recipient Site Permitting and Habitat: 9.5 CEUs
- Mechanical Excavation of Gopher Tortoise Burrows: 7.5 CEUs
Participants can count up to 42 CEUs for the full training.
Available Courses and Registration
January 11–15, 2021 at Naples Botanical Garden.
Private, group and custom classes are available. Wildlands also provides informational courses (non-authorized agent courses) to organizations interested in learning about gopher tortoise biology and the laws protecting tortoises. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
* *Please note that the cost of these courses does NOT include the separate $544 mitigation contribution charged by FWC upon submission of the application to become an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent.
Full Course Descriptions
GT1000 – Gopher Tortoise Ecology and FWC Permitting Guidelines: This course provides the necessary background on gopher tortoise biology and conservation that is critical for understanding the permitting guidelines and the need for regulations protecting the gopher tortoise. Covered topics include a thorough review of FWC rules, penalties, and guidelines, including how to determine whether or not a permit is needed, interpreting the 25-foot radius guideline, permitting guidelines, mitigation contributions, and types of permits. This course also introduces students to the FWC online permitting system and provides hands-on training for identifying gopher tortoise burrows and determining burrow activity status.
While no certification is provided after passing this course, a passing grade is a requirement for any individuals wishing to take later courses that will provide support for permitted activities as an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent. This course is also ideal for individuals who want to learn more about gopher tortoises and their protection measures but do not plan to become Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agents. It is particularly helpful in this capacity for those who work for local governments in permitting and permit review capacities. Individuals who are already Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agents are exempt from this requirement.
GT2000 – Survey Techniques for Development Sites: This course provides a detailed review of the survey requirements for relocation (donor) sites as described in the most current FWC Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines. This course will provide hands-on training for conducting surveys on development sites. It will also more thoroughly review the requirements for the documentation necessary for submitting permit applications and cover GIS and map-making necessary for these requirements. Students will have a take-home assignment where they go through the process of generating maps and gopher tortoise population estimates necessary for submitting a permit.
Students who successfully earn a passing grade in this course will be provided with a letter supporting their application to conduct gopher tortoise surveys as an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent through FWC.
GT2500 – Capture and Transport of Gopher Tortoises: This course focuses on aspects related to capture and transport of tortoises at recipient sites. Lecture material will cover aspects related to supervision of burrow excavation using mechanical equipment, but this class does NOT meet the training requirements for this activity, which requires significantly more one-on-one time to conduct properly. Students will receive hands-on training in setting both bucket and live traps for the safe and efficient capture of tortoises, conducting hand shovel excavation, measuring tortoises, conducting a cursory health examination, and requirements for safe handling and transport of tortoises.
Students who successfully earn a passing grade in this course will be provided with a letter supporting their application to conduct gopher tortoise capture by bucket traps, live traps, and hand shovel excavation as an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent through FWC.
GT3000 – Recipient Site Surveys, Monitoring, and Management: This course provides a more in-depth review of the advanced requirements for recipient sites according to the most current FWC Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines. This course will more provide hands-on training for assessing the suitability of potential recipient sites, enclosures for release of relocated tortoises, vegetation sampling on recipient sites, record keeping, conservation easements, long-term management and monitoring of recipient sites, and reporting requirements for recipient sites. This course also reviews safe handling, marking, transport, and release of tortoises.
Students who successfully earn a passing grade in this course will be provided with a letter supporting their application to mark, transport, and release gopher tortoises as an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent through FWC.
GT4000 – Supervision of Burrow Excavations Using Mechanical Equipment: This advanced course provides one-on-one training necessary to conduct the excavation of gopher tortoise burrows by directing the use of a backhoe. Because of the risk of harm to gopher tortoises, commensals, and persons assisting with the excavation, these courses will be limited in size, depending on the nature of the relocation project for which the excavation is permitted. A typical course size would consist of one or two individuals, and never more than five students. For each course, the instructor will review the requirements for supervision of burrow excavations in the permitting guidelines. Field activities will consist of the instructor demonstrating the full excavation of five potentially occupied gopher tortoises while directing a backhoe. Then, each student will conduct the excavation of one potentially occupied burrow with the instructor directing the backhoe operator. Finally, each student will be required to successfully complete the excavation of five burrows while directing the backhoe with the instructor providing input during the excavation.
Students who successfully earn a passing grade in this course will be provided with a letter certifying completion of this training course. Students will still need to direct backhoe excavation of 30 gopher tortoise burrows with the successful extraction of at least 12 gopher tortoises (with no gopher tortoise injuries or mortality) to meet the criteria to become permitted in this activity.
Combination A – Introductory Authorized Agent Training (GT1000 & GT2000): A four-day course which introduces students to tortoise biology, permitting, and surveys. Successful completion of this course will allow students to conduct surveys, but they will be unable to apply for gopher tortoise relocation permits without an authorized capture method.
Combination B – Basic Authorized Agent Training (GT1000, GT2000 & GT2500): A five-day course which covers all of the requirements to become an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent to conduct surveys, submit permit applications for relocation projects (10 or Fewer Burrow Permits, Conservation Permits, and Disturbed Site Permits only), capture tortoises (using bucket or live traps, or hand shovel excavation), and transport tortoises.