Gopher Tortoise: Gopherus Polyphemus
Distribution and Habitat
Gopher Tortoises are found throughout the states of Florida and southern areas of Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Gopher Tortoises dig their burrows in dry upland areas, including sandhills, scrub, pine flatwoods and coastal dunes. The burrows are up to 40 feet in length and 10 feet in depth, with a single opening.
Gopher Tortoises are rather plain in color, either a dark tan or grey. Their front legs are broad and flat, looking like shovels and the hind legs look like an elephant’s leg. Their carapaces are fairly flat, and the male’s plastron is concave while the female’s is perfectly flat. Adults range in length from 10-16 inches and can weigh about 30 pounds. Young Gopher Tortoises are vulnerable to predation until their shell hardens at about 6-7 years of age. They can live up to 100 years.
Gopher Tortoises’ burrows are homes for a variety of other animals, including indigo snakes, rabbits, armadillos and insects, an important part of the ecology.
Gopher Tortoises are unique in that they are one of a few tortoises to make large burrows.
They become stressed easily when handled; will release their bladder contents, rendering them dehydrated.