Gopher Tortoise


ANIMAL:                                  Gopher Tortoise         Gopherus polyphemus
Type of Animal: Tortoise
Habitat: Sandy upland areas: sandhills, scrub, pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, coastal dunes, coastal grasslands, dry prairie, mixed hardwood-pine communities, dry hammocks, longleaf pine forest, sand dunes, sandy ridges, upland forests, old fields, yards, power line rights of way, pastures, roadsides, coastal plains
Location(s): Extreme SE Louisiana, Mississippi panhandle, S Alabama, Florida, S Georgia, & extreme SW S Carolina
Appearance: Males have concave bottom shells (plastrons), females have flat plastrons, males have longer gular projections, both sexes have yellow plastron, light to dark brown elongate carapace (upper shell), grayish-black or dark brown skin, elephantine back legs, shovel-like front legs, large blunt head, hatchlings have yellow carapace becoming darker w/ age, males have longer tail
Food/Diet: Flowers, berries, fruit (gopher apple is a favorite), legumes, grasses, leaves, prickly pear cactus, pine needles, stinging nettle, weeds, yucca, sedges, mushrooms, herbs, beech, melons, roots, vegetables, greens, carrion, poop
Status in Wild: Threatened
Conservation: Breeding from zoos, wildlife parks & breeding centers
Lifestyle: Solitary
Additional Info:
Males: Females: Young: Group:
Called: Male Female Hatchling Solitary
Weight: 12 lbs 14 lbs 4 lbs Gestation:


Life Span:

2-3 months
Height: 0.5-1.3 ft Same
Body Length: 10 in 12 in 3 in 40-60 years in wild, 80-100 years in captivity
Tail Length: 3 in 2.5 in
Main predators of adults are bobcats, foxes, coyotes, bears, dogs, cats, raccoons, alligators, eagles, large hawks, large owls, & feral pigs. Young preyed on by fire ants, skunks, snakes, armadillos, hawks, owls, falcons, crows, jays, opossums, & snapping turtles.
Sexually mature at 10-12 years.
Threatened due to habitat loss, development, hunting for meat, pet trade, mismanagement of wild lands, & gassing burrows to kill rattlesnakes.
They don’t drink much because they get moisture from food they eat.
They play important role as seed dispersers.
Fun Fact(s): State reptile of Georgia.
Only tortoise found E of Mississippi River.
One of few tortoises to actually make large burrows (up to 10 ft deep & 40 ft long), which are important for use by other species. Usually, only 1 tortoise found per burrow. Nearly 400 other species use these burrows. Largest burrow recorded 26 ft deep & 65 ft long in Panhandle.

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