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Florida Boardwalk Animal Fact Sheet
GOPHER TORTOISE
Gopherus polyphemus

Range:
Coast of southeast U.S., most being found in portions of North Central Florida and Southern Georgia

Gopher tortoises live in colonies of about a dozen individuals. Burrows can be up to 40 feet long and 10 feet deep. These burrows provide shelter from temperatures changes, fires and predators, and provide year round shelter for more than 3 dozen other animal species; including snakes, frogs, toads, quail, and many other vertebrates. Once gopher tortoises are too big to be swallowed by armadillos, foxes, skunks, and raccoons, they have no other natural enemies other than humans and dogs. The gopher tortoise is protected because it is in decline from urban development, farming, collection as a food source, road mortality and their use in tortoise races, which relocates them often into environments or colonies they cannot adapt to.


Habitat: Dry land, well drained sandy soil for digging burrows, sufficient low plant growth for food, open sunny areas for nesting
Diet: Low growing plants, legumes, wiregrass, broadleaf grass, apples, pawpaws (a deciduous tree of the eastern and southeast United States, having flowers with three sepals, three petals, and numerous stamens and fleshy, edible fruit), blackberries, saw palmetto, berries, and other fruits
Status: Vulnerable (IUCN)
Approximate Dimensions of Adult: Length: 9 inch shell
Lifespan: over 40 years
Reproduction & Offspring: Sexual maturation at 10 to 15 years of age. Number of eggs: 3-15. Incubation: 80-90 days in Florida; 100 days in Georgia.

 

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