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Gopher tortoise move estimated at $10,000

Hernando County will spend an estimated $10,000 to move dozens of gopher tortoises from the site of a proposed wastewater treatment facility in Brookridge.

Peacock & Associates of Palm Harbor will move at least 40 tortoises from the Brookridge site to the Eckerd Foundation property in south central Hernando County at a cost of $175 each plus a $2,000 impact fee.

Another option would have been to spend more money on land to replace tortoise habitats eliminated by the construction.

Gopher tortoises are a species of concern, and their habitats are considered endangered.

"We feel we would rather relocate than buy land for mitigation," said Richard Radacky, county utilities director. He estimated there are 70 to 80 active gopher tortoise holes on the Brookridge subdivision property.

County Administrator Chuck Hetrick suggested shipping the tortoises to Arizona, where sufficient habitats supposedly abound.

County Commission Chairman Tony Mosca Jr. jokingly offered to supply the trucks. Zoning officials recently determined that his truck rental business violates the zoning for his property in Spring Hill.

"That's an option we did not pursue," Radacky said.

Before tortoises can be moved, the state requires assurance that the animals can adjust to their proposed new habitat.

"How do you ask a turtle, "Are you going to be happy here?'

" Commissioner June Ester wondered.

It was not clear Tuesday how soon the tortoises might be moved.