The Gopher Tortoise

The Gopher Tortoise

Gopherus Polyphemus

Gopher tortoises are moderate-sized, terrestrial turtle, averaging 9 to 11 inches long. The shell is tan, brown or gray. They have stumpy, elephantine hint feet and shovel like forelimbs for digging.


Sandy areas with sparse tree canopy and an abundance of low growing vegetations. They live in long burrows. The burrows protect them from fires, drought, heat, cold and predators. The Tortoise digs its burrow wide enough so the can turn around and go the opposite direction.

Humans have a huge part in habitat loss in gopher tortoises. When we build on lands that the tortoises reside in they have no where to go.

  • Diet - Low growing plants, as in wiregrass, broadleaf grasses, and legumes. Their diet also consist of prickly pear cactus, blackberries, paw-paws and other seasonal fruits.
  • Breeding and Reproducing - Females reach sexual maturity at the ages of 9-21. Males mature at a slightly younger age. Breeding season is April through November. Nest are made mid June and one clutch is produced annually. A clutch normally has 5-9 eggs, 6 being the average.

Burrowing owls, gopher frogs, indigo snakes, opossums, rabbits, gopher crickets, Florida mice and eastern diamondback rattle snakes are some of the 350 species that share a home with the gopher tortoise on his burrow. The decline of the tortoise causes a decline in these other species.

We took a survey on how many gopher tortoise burrows there are on the schools land.

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