Gopher tortoises moved for Wekiva Parkway

Florida Department of Transportation moves tortoises before construction

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Gopher tortoises will soon be moved out of Orange County before the first phase of construction begins on the Wekiva Parkway.

The first step of the Wekiva Parkway Project is to protect the Central Florida wildlife on the east side of County Road 435 otherwise known as Mount Plymouth Road.

The tortoises are a threatened species in Florida and under state law, they must be moved before new development takes place.

"There was a time in Florida when you just built the road for wildlife," said Steve Olson of the Florida Department of Transportation.

Contractors working for FDOT are spending the next few weeks digging up burrows to find the tortoises. So far, 41 have been recovered and will be moved to South Florida.

State workers expect to find roughly 150 gopher tortoises.

The Wekiva Parkway will be the final touch to completing the beltway around Central Florida, giving drivers an alternative to Interstate 4. Construction will be done in phases with the 25 mile toll road to be finished in 2021.

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