Why did the tortoise cross the road?
That’s the question a deputy from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office may have asked himself the other day.
According to a June 21 Facebook post from the agency, Deputy L. Fontenot came across the reptile along Nocatee Parkway, north of St. Augustine, while he was out on routine patrol (the deputy, not the tortoise).
“Impeding traffic flow,” read the post, along with a picture of the law enforcement officer and his suspect.
When the big guy, identified as “Gopherus Genus,” failed to clear the roadway, it was briefly “detained,” then “released on his own recognizance” into woods nearby.
“Gopherus was cooperative during the remainder of my encounter with him, so I chose to use discretion and let him go with a warning. In fact, our interaction was so positive, we posed for a selfie together!”
Many commenters were appreciative of Fontenot’s efforts to steer the tortoise away from traffic.
“Good job, great picture. Both are so handsome!”
“Love it. So glad no one ran him over!”
“Your quick and very kind judgment in helping him find a ‘better’ place for his stroll probably saved his life!!”
There were some jokesters as well.
“I don’t see where he did anything wrong.”
“Thanks, Deputy Fontenot! One hopes Mr Gopherus has learnt something from this encounter and will make better choices in future!”
“Thank you for saving that lawbreaking Florida native. Wish more citizens would help others like this.”
In all seriousness, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. gopher tortoises are listed as threatened in Florida and protected under state law.
“It is against the law to kill, harass or destroy gopher tortoises, their eggs or burrows,” says FWC.
If you do indeed see one, and suspect a wildlife law violation, report it to the Wildlife Alert Reward Program at 888-404-FWCC, 24-hours a day or online.
You could be eligible for a reward if your information leads to an arrest.