Gopher tortoise Gopherus polphemus
Length 8-15 inches (20-38cm)
Weight: Up to 30lbs (14 kg) average 8-10lbs (4-5kg)
Color: Adults are grayish brown, and juveniles area a yellowish brown.
Legs and feet: Front legs and feet are flat and shovel like which helps them dig their burrows, back legs and feet are elephantine.
No webbing is present between toes.
Three key requirements:
1. Dry upland habitat with sandy, well drained soils for ideal burrowing and nesting.
2. Open tree canopy so that plenty of sunlight reaches the ground.
3. Low growing food plants for their herbaceous (plant-only) diet including gopher apple and purple love grass.
Mating Season: April through July
Females reach between 10-20 years old.
Females lay a clutch of 4-7 ping-pong ball sized eggs which are buried in the ground.
Sex is determined by temperature of the soil. Eggs> F 85 (30C) develop into females, < 85 F develop into males.
Hatchlings are 1-2 inches (3-5cm) and grown 3/4 inches a year.
Gopher tortoise burrow provide a home and refuge to over 350 vertebrate and invertebrate species.
Many share the burrow with the tortoise or use abandoned burrows.
Used to regulate body temperature and as shelter from predators and wildfires.
Up to 50ft (15 m) long and 15ft (5 m) deep, depending on water table. Width is about the length of the tortoise.
Aron (or Mound) in front of the burrow is often used as nesting site.
Multiple burrows may be used by individual tortoises.
Burrows provide shelter from heat, cold, fire and safe place to raise young.
Why did the gopher tortoise cross the road?
To get to the other side! probable to graze
What can you do to help?
Watch the road for crossing tortoises
Do not take or move them
Plant native plants in their habitat.
If you find them near water, leave them on land.
Cool facts.They live for more than 89 years.
.They right themselves if flipped over.
.They socialize in groups called pods.
.They eat bones form dead animals, presumably to get calcium
.They dig up to 9ft a day in sandy soils
.They have a good sense of smell.
Conservation & Status
Gopher tortoises are a protected species
Their populations are declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation, disease, vehicle strikes, and predation by invasive species.
Made possible by the Lee County Tourist Development Council