Gopher Tortoise -- "Ask an Expert" -- 2013

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From: Gord, Subject: {Get rid of a} gopher tortoise, Date: January 2, 2014
How do I get rid of one? It is digging holes in my back yard.

Can you send me some pictures of the holes? Have you actually seen a tortoise? What county and state do you live in?

From: Valerie, Subject: Sick baby gopher, Date: December 30, 2013 Sick baby gopher tortoise?
He has laying out his burrow a few days now even when cloudy. Eyes are almost shut and saliva leaking coming out of mouth on occasion. Looks like he cannot open his mouth. Does not hiss or run into burrow. Help.

He needs to go to a wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian that treats reptiles. If you don’t know where to take him, send me the name of your county and town and I will try to help you find someone.
Thanks,     Becky

From: jim, Subject: {Yellow Bellied shedding}, Date: December 29, 2013
Hi, my yellow bellied turtle is now 3 years old and recently has shed some shell parts to the rear of his back (by tail). This is the first showing in 3 years and i need to know if this is natural or cause for concern.

Sounds like you may have a housing or diet problem. It takes a long time for health issues to become visible in turtles because they are reptiles and cold-blooded. Below are two links to care sheets for yellow-bellies. Make sure you are doing everything correctly for him to be healthy. If he continues to lose shell, please get him to a wildlife rehabilitator or a veterinarian that takes care of reptiles.
Feel free to write back if you need more information.

From: Leisha, Subject: Fertilizer and sulcata tortoise, Date: December 29, 2013
Hello! My husband is re-seeding our backyard lawn (half of it at a time). About 6 weeks ago he added Scott's food for new grass to help the growth. There's no weed killer in the mix. When I found out, I was upset as our sulcata tortoise lives in the backyard and I know fertilizer can kill them. He hasn't been exposed to the new grass, but I'm wondering how long before he can enjoy grazing there?
Thanks so much!     Leisha

Hi Leisha,
The answer to your question probably depends on many factors, including the size of your tortoise, how long it has been since it rained, the permeability of your soil, etc., etc. I suggest you call the manufacturer, tell them the situation, and see what they suggest.

From: Beth, Subject: moving a gopher tortoise, Date: December 15, 2013
I live in southwest Florida and am interested in the training for capture & on-site relocation of a gopher tortoise on my property. According to the FWC, there is an on-line explanation, quiz, and monetary donation available on their website to get this training. Without actually signing up, is there another way I can obtain a workbook or guide to prepare for this?
What I am not interested in is the extensive training to become an authorized gopher tortoise agent---able to move gopher tortoises off-site or to do it for others, as a profession.
Please advise.     Beth

Go to the following website
( and read through it carefully. It will eventually take you to the page and link that leads to the on-line course and permit application.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions or need assistance.

holes dug by??

From: sandy
Subject: gopher tortoises??
Date: November 17, 2013

Not sure what caused the holes, but it doesn’t look like tortoise work to me.


From: Joe, Subject: Possible Gopher Tortoise?, Date: November 29, 2013

two tortoisesHello I was wondering about when was the last spotted Gopher Tortoise in SW Miami Dade county or if there where any efforts to re-introduce them into county parks. While walking at a park I found one with the family, however I believed it to be a Russian Tortoise. I took some pictures of it and I was wondering if it was indeed a Gopher tortoise it had a burrow underneath a giant rock boulder. Please let me know if this was someones Pet due to its range or if it might be indeed an endangered species. The park is located behind the Zoo Miami, which has a small protected patch of land.

Are these two pictures of the same animal? I think they are both gopher tortoises, but the knobby shell of the bottom picture appears to be caused by a vitamin deficiency. This often happens in animals that are kept in captivity and not fed a proper diet. Any information you can share would help me figure this out.
Thanks,     Becky

From: tugies, Subject: tortoises on Sanibel - months active, Date: November 26, 2013
Hi -
What months are the tortoises generally seen walking about on Sanibel?
We have Sonoran Desert Tortoise, so was excited to see on here.
Thanks!     Pat

Hi Pat,
The native tortoises on Sanibel are gopher tortoises. Because they are cold-blooded reptiles, they will slow down some in the winter, but won’t hibernate. The tortoises will be out and about anytime the temperature is above 70 degrees F for more than a day or two.

From: claudiasosa93, Subject: Found gopher tortoise, Date: November 26, 2013
Hello I live in South Texas and I recently found a gopher tortoise stuck between the holes of a plastic can holder and as I approached the tortoise I realized it had a ”z” carved on its shell, by the looks of it. I cut off the plastic can holders off of it and it didnt move much but as I reached to touch it the tortoise did some movement. I was relieved but it seemed very fatigue so I gave it some lettuce I had in my home as it ate I also realized it was sneezing wheezing and bubbles came from its nose. This worried me because by this time it was extremely cold outside and windy with havy rain, 45 degrees outside , which is strange for this tortoise to be out in the cold and not hibernateing. I dont want it to die and I dont want it to.go back into the wild because it has the respiratory disease. What do I do ?

I suggest that if you still have the tortoise that you find a wildlife rehabilitator and take it there. They will be able to determine what it needs and what to do with it.
Feel free to write back if I can offer any more information.

From: Rlfranz99, Subject: question {fake gator scared her?}, Date: November 26, 2013
Hi Becky,
I live in Sarasota from Nov. to May. For the last 3 years we have had a lovely tortoise "Tillie" grace us with her presence in our front yard. About 4 days ago I placed a plastic 2' alligator in the front yard as decor and now we haven't seen hide nor hair nor shell of Tillie! Did she think the fake gator was real?? I have since removed that silly decor, hoping she'd return.
PS I know she's a female because last year a stud mounted her.

Hi Linda,
I suppose it is possible that the fake gator scared Tillie off. However, if that is what happened, she will probably come back. Let me know!
Thanks,     Becky

From: Doug, Subject: Do they hibrinate in the cold months, Date: November 12, 2013
We have had 2 living just off our land all summer. About a week ago they vanished..

Depending on where you are located, the explanation for their disappearance could be any number of things. If it is cold there for an extended period of time, they could be down in their burrows until it warms up again. In central Florida, where I am, the tortoises stay in on cold/cool days and come out when it gets warm, even if it’s the next day. Sometimes, they will have different summer and winter home ranges. This might reflect seasonal food resources or ground water fluctuations, or even movements of other tortoises within the general area. Unless you have some reason to suspect that someone took them, I wouldn’t worry. They will most likely be back. Write down the date when you last saw them and the date if they return. It may be that the same thing will happen again next winter.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions or need more information.

gopher tortoise that doesn't move. From: 2293431312, Subject: {turtle has been in this same spot}, Date: November 10, 2013

This turtle has been in this same spot all day and tonight he is still there you can touch his feet and he will pull them in, but he does not try to crawl away. I looked him over and found no wounds. I've never seen one do this. does this seem normal

Hi Ray,
Have you seen tortoises around the area before? Do you know of any burrows nearby? Sitting out all night is not typical behavior. Someone could have dropped it off there, or it could have wandered there if its home got destroyed, or it might be sick. I would suggest that if it doesn’t move on by tomorrow that you take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. If you need help finding one, write me back and tell me what county and state you live in.

From: Naomi, Subject: Protecting my gopher tortoises from my dog, Date: November 10, 2013
A month ago I rescued a young two yr old lab mix from the shelter. She''s a very sweet dog and ver gentle, but I cannot keep her away from my gopher tortoises and their burrows. I live on 10 acres in Gilchrist County Fl and have had my land certified as a wildlife habitat by the FWA. I'm always very careful when I mow, and stay away from their burrows. In the 33 yrs I've lived here the population of tortoises as well as Eastern Bluebirds has increased and it makes me very happy. My first priority is the protection of all the wildlife on my land. I don't want to give up my dog because I believe she was abused by her last owner and needs a lot of love, but at the same time, I don't want her harming the tortoises. Today she managed to turn one over and thank God I saw her. I ran out there and turned the tortoise back over right away, as well as making sure he/she was unharmed. They're such wonderful animals. Can you please help me, I don' t know what to do besides monitor my dog every minute when she's outside, which I will do if need be. Thank you. Naomi

Hi Naomi,
Sounds like your lab is going through the “terrible twos”. Perhaps some training is in order. I know that hunters use avoidance training to teach their hunting dogs to stay away from rattlesnakes. You could ask your vet, animal shelter, or hunting club if they know anyone that might be able to help you, or look on-line for ideas and suggestions. Labs are typically pretty smart and very eager to please, so she would probably respond well.
I can tell that you really care about your dog, but thanks for making the tortoises your priority. Hopefully, you can have the best outcome for all of them. Good luck!

From: Elizabeth, Subject: My gopher tourtise {newly hatched}, Date: November 10, 2013
Hi Becky,
About 3 years ago I found a newly hatched gopher tourtise in my yard. I have no idea how she got there. She was in the gravel as we have no grass, just tiles, gravel and a pool. I think another animal must have brought her in. Anyway, I didn't realize she was a gopher until much later as I took her to the pet shop when I found her to ask them if it was legal to keep her and the said sure. She is very healthy and friendly and I am too attached to her to just let her go. I even started raising prickly pear just for her. I want to make sure she is in a safe protected place as I now realize it's not in her best interest to keep her confined. Do you have any suggestions of somewhere I can take her that she will be in a protected environment.
Thank You   Beth

Hi Beth,
What state and county do you live in?

From: Norma, Subject: What to do with a Gopher Tortoise Burrow in a residential garden, Date: November 9, 2013
Hi, I discovered a quite large hole in my front garden only about 8 feet from our (one story home) and the
attached garage to our home. I was told that it was a
Gopher Tortoise Burrow.
I have done some research on the tortoises and see they are a Federal endangered species. We live in Florida but we want to follow the Federal Laws and do not want to damage the tortoise by any means
Our concerns are both with the Tortoise and our home. Since they make such long and deep burrows should we be concerned about our plumbing and sewer lines that are in the foundation of our home? Will they do damage to any of that by the size of the burrow both in length and depth?
Should we just forget that it is here? Can you give us some advise please? I called a local Wildlife Rescue Center close by to us and they told me to call Fish and Wildlife? Is that what we should do? Will they relocate the animal for us without any costs to us?
Any help you can give us will be appreciated.
Thanks, Norma and Craig

Hi Norma and Craig,
Gopher tortoises are listed as Threatened by the State of Florida and are a candidate for federal listing, so yes, they are protected. In order to relocate the tortoise, you would need a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; you can apply for one on-line. If the permit application was approved, they would not be responsible for moving the tortoise. You would have to hire someone to do that and find a qualified place to take it.
Over many years, I regularly get people asking me if a tortoise burrow near their home or shed or pool, etc., will cause problems. I have never heard of anyone experiencing problems. Sidewalks and edges of roads can erode if the opening of the burrow is directly underneath them, but that doesn’t sound like your situation. The only “structure” that I know of that was impacted was an above-ground pool. The burrow was at the edge of the base of the pool and extended under it. They had bunches of rain, the burrow collapsed, and the pool fell over. Big mess.
All that being said, I suggest that you just let it be. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote that has lots of good information. It is copyrighted material, so you it for your own education only, please. Feel free to write back if you have questions. Enjoy! You are lucky, really!

From: jeane, Subject: Gopher Tortoise {feeding}, Date: October 24, 2013
I live in Palm Coast, Fl. & a very large G. Tortoise has dug a burrow in my yard about 5 months ago.. she travels around the yard & eats grass & once a week I give her some corn on the cobb (small Piece) & some strawberries I am worried that if we get a freeze this year it will kill the grass & she won’t have anything to eat. what can I give her if that happens & how often. She is about 13 to 14’’’’ long. & seems to be ok living here.. I do not bother her at all just drop off the food by her burrow.
Thanks for your help. Jeane

Hi Jeane,
It is not a good idea to feed tortoises people food (and it is illegal). They like it, but it is the equivalent of junk food for them and not very healthy. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote that has ideas you can implement to make your yard hospitable for the tortoise. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.

From: Egs, Subject: Rotten eggs, Date: July 26, 2013
I have a turtle that is on my property. It is quite large. I think it is a gopher turtle. It laid eggs in my front yard but the hole closed in. I could see 2 or 3 eggs sitting on top of the fallen hole. They're were 7 eggs she laid. The 3 eggs I saw were open and one had orange goo in it mysteriously. Ants are in the partly collapsed hole. I really hope the rest of the eggs are ok. Please respond asap thanks a bunch

It sounds like the nest was depredated or the eggs were not buried well. There is really no way for me to know the condition of the remaining eggs, but incubation period is around 90 days. If you live in the northern part of the range (north Florida, Georgia, etc.), incubation time will be a little longer. If you live south (central and south Florida), it will take less time for the eggs to hatch. It is getting very late in the season regardless of where you are located, so the eggs might night have been viable in the first place.
I know this isn’t much help, but it’s the best I can do. Feel free to write back if you have more questions.

From: Briar, Subject: tortoise shot near my house, Date: October 29, 2013
Someone shot a tortoise twice in the belly and left it near my fence, on its back, to die. Just horrible. I see on your site these animals are supposed to be protected. Do I need to report this to someone?

Hi Briar,
What state and county do you live in?

From: Khair, Subject: My rescue golfer, Date: October 26, 2013
I've had a turtle for abt 6 mos living outside in my old herb box! Need help on his care!

Please send pictures so I can figure out what kind of turtle it is.
Thanks,   Becky

From: Carol, Subject: Gopher turtle {uninvited), Date: September 29, 2013
How do I get ric of them. I think I have two and they were uninvited.

What county and state do you live in?

From: Evie, Subject: Gopher tortoise {Female / Male ?}, Date: September 28, 2013
Can you tell if this tortoise is a male or a female from these pictures? This particular moved into our front yard/pasture a year ago. For the most part we leave it alone however we do place a variety of chopped vegetables ( yellow squash sweet potatoes celery carrots cucumbers) and spring mix close by every few days. The tortoise seems to enjoy them along with the grass that we plant in the pasture.

What sex Gopher tortoise?

I can’t tell from the pictures if the tortoise is a male or a female. Have attached a couple of pictures that will help you decide. The bottom shell of the female is perfectly flat; the male is concave. If you pick the tortoise up to look at the bottom shell, do it quickly and release it. And watch out! It might urinate on you!
It is illegal to supplement a tortoise’s diet with “human food”, and it is really not good for them because they fill up on “junk food” instead of eating healthy. I have also attached a chapter from a workbook written by a friend of mine that you should fine helpful. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.

Female & Male Gopher tortoises

From: estelle, Subject: What do they like to eat?, Date: October 23, 2013

Low-growing vegetation, fruits of native plants, grasses.
It is illegal to supplement their food with “human food”. If you are asking so you can feed a tortoise/tortoises, please write me back and I will send you some good information.

From: Michael, Subject: Old burrows, Date: October 23, 2013
Do gopher tortoises ever return to an old burrow? I watched one for months on an empty lot next to my home before going away for the summer, and on my return he or she had abandoned that burrow, but is still in the neighborhood. He, or she, was back foraging on the lot after crossing the road to get there. It is a small street, but I do worry about safety.
I used to put out watermelon and pineapple trimmings in the area, because the local wildlife rehab center said that would be OK. He or she loved them!
Thanks from me (and from Gaugin the gopher).

Hi Michael,
Gopher tortoises typically have several burrows that they use interspersed throughout their home range. If you would really like to help the tortoise, don’t feed him people food. That is like junk food that will fill him up and keep him from eating the things he really needs (like us eating at McDonalds every day). It would be better to plant some native vegetation in the area where he can find it. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote that you might find interesting. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.

From: Leo, Subject: Gopher tortoise found in Lexington, KY, Date: October 20, 2013
A friend of mine recently contacted me about a gopher tortoise that was found in her neighborhood of Lexington, KY.
It has a fairly concave plastron, smallish (to me) gular projection and tail, so I'm not certain of its gender, and it appears to have been painted green some time ago. (!)
My friend received this animal because her neighbors know she has experience keeping box turtles but is unable to house this beast permanently.
What is the protocol in such a case? She would like it to go somewhere nearer its home range for the benefits of climate & diet, but I'm unfamiliar with the regulations
on these guys. Can it go to a FL wildlife rehabber?
Any ideas would be appreciated.
Thanks. Leo Schleicher
Advisor, Northern Ohio Association of Herpetologists
Cleveland, OH

Gopher tortoise in Kentucky

Hi Leo,
Let me check around and see what I can do. Back to you asap.

From: Kim, Subject: Gopher losing skin, Date: October 20, 2013
I have a gopher tortoise that I've been watching in my yard for 15 years. We call him grandpa! Recently I noticed he's losing the scaley part of his skin on his front legs. Is this an age issue? I'm sure he's quite old. Or could it be something environmental? Thanks for your help!   Kim

Hi Kim,
I haven’t seen that before, so it is difficult for me to know. Could you send some pictures? Is the area where his burrows are or where he eats unusually wet?

From: Heidi, Subject: general {enhance habitat}, Date: October 16, 2013
Is there anything I can do to enhance the habitat of wild gopher tortoise in my neighborhood? Should I put out lettuce for him?

Hi Heidi,
Please do not supplement the tortoises’ diet by putting food out. Besides being illegal, it is just like giving them McDonald’s. They will eat that instead of foraging for the foods that are really good for them. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote that will give you information you can use, including types of vegetation that you can plant that tortoises will eat and be healthy. It is copyrighted material, so use if for your own education only, please.
Have fun! Write back if you have more questions.   Becky

From: Mandy, Subject: Hibernation for tortoises, Date: October 14, 2013
I've recently got.a small tortoise which was rescued . We are not sure what sort he is or how old , and would be guessing at around one or slightly younger , he's doing really well , we have a big house for him and he's well looked after . I went to our local pet store to purchase a heat mat to keep on all day , ( we also have a heat lamp which is on for about 10 or 12 hours a day ) when were in . I asked questions about hibernation , and he said its a urban myth that tortoises that are kept inside at the same temperature , need to hibernate . He's very lively and is showing no signs of eating less , what should we do ? I did have one as a child and I just remembered putting him in a box in the airing cupboard , but I think we kept him out side so that was different.
12:33pm -- Sorry I failed to say we live in the uk , when I asked the question regarding hibernation .

There are factors besides just temperature that regulate hibernation, particularly light and genetics. It would be very benefical to know what kind of torroise you have. Then you could find out how to best care for it.
If you can't get it identified, I would give it the opportunity to hibernate, but don't force it.

From: Ashley, Subject: Large and baby gopher turtle, Date: September 20, 2013
There's a large gt i keep moving out from under my car his or her whole was out under my fence next to a 60 mph hwy.I was agraid i would run him over so i moved him behind the house prob ten acres of woods. I since found that's completely surrounded by a fence. Was i wrong I'm worried. The city mowed 5 days ago now the whole has filled in with dirt and leaves
and now there's a baby gt by my car
I'm thinking it has no burrow. Where should i move the baby to? We call her Shellby. I have absolutely no money gor a permit. Please help what do i do?

Take the baby behind your house and let it go on the edge of the woods. If there is a burrow, put it in there. If not, put it under some vegetation where it can hide until it finds a safe place to be. Do this in the mid-morning on a sunny day so it has plenty of time to get settled before dark.
Don’t worry about the burrow getting mowed or the fence around the woods. Gopher tortoises can easily dig their way pretty much anywhere they want to go. Dirt and leaves will simply be pushed out of the way, and the fence will be dug under if they want to go the other side.
Write back if you have problems or more questions. Keep looking under your car before you leave, at least until the weather cools off a bit.
Thanks,     Becky

From: Eve, Subject: Baby Gopher Turtle, Date: September 18, 2013
I found a baby turtle (looks like newly hatched) in the dirt road near a larger turtle hole. His eyes aren't open but don't look infected or anything. How long will it take for his eyes to open and will his mother watch over him?

If you still have the tortoise, please take it back and release it into the adult burrow. It will be safe there, and that is the best thing to do for the tortoise (also the legal thing). Gopher tortoises, and most reptiles and amphibians, do not take care of their eggs or young. That is why it is important to release it into a burrow so it has cover.
Thank you,     Becky

From: Jane, Subject: Strange gopher behavior at Crescent Beach near St. Augustine, Date: September 11, 2013
I’ve been watching the gopher tortoises in the sand dunes and up in the scrub by our house at Crescent Beach for more than 40 years. In the last few years several of the larger turtles have opened their tunnels up on the beach side of the dunes. This was new since they had always seemed to forage on the land side before. But until last year I never saw one venture beyond the dune vegetation.
Last summer I picked up 1 or 2 on the beach & put them back in the dunes thinking some tourist had seen them and tried to put them in the ocean (people think they are sea turtles!). Anyway, this summer we saw at least 6 on the beach in a 2 week span. We watched 2 of them, on different occasions, come out of the dunes and walk all the way to the edge of the water (it’s a wide beach with car traffic) before turning around to go back into the dunes! What can they be doing? I am so worried that they will be run over or taken away by tourists when they are so exposed out on the beach. Can you think of an explanation?
Thanks,     Jane

Hi Jane,
We occasionally see tortoises on the beach here on Kennedy Space Center, and even in the ocean. Not sure why they do that; one idea that I heard is that saltwater removes parasites and heals the skin.
As far as the tortoises burrows opening up to the beach side: It is more likely that the dune is eroding and an existing burrow is now exposed on the beach side.

From: Paulette, Subject: tortoise/armadillo, Date: September 4, 2013
I have an armadillo in my yard. While pruning my plumbago I found what I believe to be tortoise eggs. I have not seen the tortoise. Could they be sharing tunnel(s) in and around my yard?

It is not likely that they would share a burrow for very long. Once an armadillo gets in there, they drag dried vegetation into the bottom and change the shape of the opening. In my experience, the tortoise will not go back to that.
This time of year, it is not unusual to find tortoise eggs that the females were carrying, but never laid. They shed them on top of the ground instead of depositing them into the nest.
I hope this is helpful. Feel free to write back.     Becky

From: Sheri, Subject: Baby gopher turtle, Date: September 3, 2013
I found a baby gopher turtle in the road brought it home it's really little. Who can take it??? Where do I bring it??

The best thing to do is take it back to as close to where you got it as you can and let it go out of harm’s way. Try to put it into a burrow (if you see any) or under some vegetation where it will be protected from sun and predators. Mid-morning or early evening are the best times to do this during this time of year.
If you can’t take it back, please tell me what city, county, and state you live in and I will try to figure out the next best option.
Thanks,     Becky

From: bitsy, Subject: Gopher {pacing back and forth}, Date: August 29, 2013
I am worried about a gopher that has been in our backyard for about a month, we live in green cove springs florida the gopher has dug a very large hole in the corner of our yard (no problem I have enjoyed watching the progress from afar) the concern I have is I came home today and the gopher is pacing back and forth from one side of the hole to the other side climbing the mound and then back again, is something wrong? I know not to bother it I am just concerned.also there have been a few birds Hanging around on the mound ruffling up the sand on the mound.

This is a new one for me! Did he go into the burrow last night? As long as he is not sitting outside of the burrow overnight, or you don’t ever see him eating, he’s probably ok. Could it possibly be another tortoise coming to check out the situation? Then the behavior would make sense.
Feel free to email me some pictures of the tortoise and the birds, if you want. I don’t promise I can figure this out, but pictures might help.

baby GT From: Jennifer, Subject: Is this a gopher tortoise, Date: August 27, 2013
Found it in my driveway this morning. It's about 2 inches long. A friend thought it might be an African spurred and is willing to raise it, but if it's a gopher I know it needs to be released where I found it. Thank you!

It looks like a gopher tortoise hatchling to me (and it is that time of year). Please release it out of harm’s way into a burrow or vegetation asap.
Thanks,     Becky

From: Lynn, Subject: Gopher tortoise disappearance, Date: August 27, 2013
We recently moved into a new home in Venice , Fla. We were thrilled to find a gopher tortoise living in the nature preserve behind our house , and coming out most afternoons to feed on grass. He is quite large ( the size of a very large honeydew melon ) , and looks quite old.
Recently, we have had torrential rains , and since then , have not seen the tortoise in about 2 weeks. Could he have drowned in his Burrough with all the rain , died of old age , or simply moved on somewhere else. Do they hibernate ( even though it has been 85 - 95' every day.) We miss seeing him and wonder what might have happened. Lynn Schur

Hi Lynn,
It is not likely that the tortoise drown in the burrow. They have evolved with fluctuating conditions. He probably just moved to higher ground or a place with food that he wants. No telling, really. Most tortoises dig and use several burrows within their home range. He will probably be back, maybe this winter when things dry out a little. It would be interesting if you kept a record of when he comes and goes.
All that being said, he might have been a transient and has simply moved on. However, if there is a good burrow and food to eat, somebody will probably take up residency at some point.

From: sckjchris3, Subject: Growing a garden to provide food, Date: August 25, 2013
We are concerned that the gopher turtlle who has made a home under our shed might not be getting enough food in our very residental yard. If we were to plant a small area our yard to provide the turtle food, what plants would you recommend. We were thinking broccoli, maybe some daisies, peas. Is there anything else you could recommend?

I have attached a chapter from a workbook written by a friend of mine that you will probably find to be very helpful. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. After you look it over, if you have more questions, feel free to write me back.

From: Gisele, Subject: What kind of Tortise is this…, Date: August 17, 2013GT
Hi I just adopted this tortoise from the shelter. I work at an emergency pet clinic and an animal control officer brought her in with a broken shell. We mended her shell and treated her but the veterinarian and I were baffled as to the exact type of tortoise she is. I just want to have an expert opinion to ensure I am giving her the proper diet and care. Thank you for your time.

This is a gopher tortoise and is legally protected. The best thing that could happen is for the animal control officer to return it as close as possible to where it was found and release it out of harm’s way. Otherwise, whoever keeps it will need to get a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (if you are in Florida) or the natural resources agency in whatever state you are located. If you need help with this, please write me back.

From: terry, Subject: spray painted, Date: August 16, 2013painted tortoise
This fellow was outside my fence today and I noticed it was spray marked. Is this usual in Saint Augustine for ID or did some redneck idiots do it? It is still outside but we have lots of ground cover outside and wild rabbits and it looks like it is good health.

Hi Terry,
It is hard to say. Most professional wildlife biologists have a marking system where holes are drilled into the edges of the top shell in a specific numbering sequence. However, if someone was doing a study and needed to identify a tortoise from a distance, they might paint them. All that being said, painting a tortoise is illegal unless you have a permit to do so.

baby GT

From: Hayley, Subject: Age, Date: August 15, 2013 How can you tell the age of a gopher turtle? Found him today in the middle of the road in Alabama. Want to release him on a safe environment? Do you have on where ? Thanks

It would be best to take it back to where you found it and release it in the nearest suitable habitat (dry scrub or flatwoods; not wetlands) out of harm’s way. He is too small to have wandered very far from home.
Thanks,     Becky

From: gigi, Date: July 6, 2013, Subject: { Hiss }
Do female gopher tortoises hiss or does that work for some breeds? -Samantha

Hi Samantha,
Male and female gopher tortoises will make a hissing sound. It is not because they are angry, but when they quickly pull their head into their shell, it compresses their lungs and forces air out. If a tortoise is hissing with its head out of the shell, it might be ill and having breathing problems.

From: Kali, Subject: Land clearing has over run my property with tortoises., Date: June 30, 2013
For the past few months a neighboring patch of acreage was cleared out to be used for farming, now my yard has about ten tortoises and two have just layed a batch of eight eggs. My question is what can I do for the ones that have taken up residency on my land? I do not mind that they are here but it is pretty scarce for food an such so what can I plant for a food source or protection an such? Also my neighboring property has heavy equipment coming to an fro so I need help in protecting my new little friends.

I have attached a chapter from a workbook written by a friend of mine that deals with tortoises in yards. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. After you look it over, if you have more questions, please write me back.

From: Kat, Sent: Friday, June 28, 2013, Subject: Fwd: A Gopher Tortoise has taken residence in my yard
I never would have thought a turtle could dig such deep holes (almost a foot deep) or so many of them! If I hadn't seen the turtle scamper into its den, I would have thought it was a gopher making all the holes. I contacted FWC after my neighbor told me it was a gopher turtle and that they were an endangered species. Samantha, at the FWC, told me that it was illegal to either touch the turtle or its tunnel environment, and that I had to allow it (and any and all offspring's) to stay there.
I'm not getting attached to 'Gary the Gopher Tortoise' or anything, (ok, I already did), but ...


Nice house and isn't he a handsome guy!
I'm worried about a few things:
what if someone (i.e.: landscaper) steps in the hole and gets hurt
what if the landscaper goes over the tunnel and hurts or buries the turtle or damages his own equipment
how long do you think it will live here
where it's located, I can't put a fence around it (3 sided fence, I was told)
I saw the pictures of what it takes to have one of these removed and I cannot afford it - disabled, limited income
Thanks so much for your time and any helpful information you can pass on. I love all animals and don't want to go out one day and see the hole filled in by anyone and injuring Gary; that's the only reason I wanted him relocated. (I can only assume it's a "he").
Regards,   Kathie

Hi Kathie,
Your note and pictures made me smile. I am glad you are willing to have Gary hang out with you. My suggestion is that you get some pin flags (they are pretty cheap at a hardware store or Home Depot-type place) and put one or two at the back of the burrows to make them visible. Don’t put them where Gary will just knock them down going in and out. I can’t tell you how long he/she will stay. That will depend on where else there is for him to go and how the food resources are at your place. Tortoises typically have several burrows in their home range and they move amongst them.
You are really quite lucky! Enjoy, and feel free to write back if you have more questions.

From: Jill, Subject: Dog dug up gopher tortoise eggs, Date: June 27, 2013
Hello I am cohabitating with a gopher tortoise that lives under my house. I have done some research and know not feed it, touch it, or move it, or block it or anything of that nature. I called some people in Tallahassee because I have a Jack Russell terrier who I'm afraid it would damage the tortoise - they basically told me just leave it alone and do my best to keep the dog away which I have. Her run line can't reach the den or home of the tortoise so I figured we were good most of the time except today as I was mowing I noticed several ping pong size eggs above ground near the entrance to the home where her line can reach . None appear to be broken or cracked however they were not buried and it was obvious they used to have been buried. Not sure what to do after researching the Internet we basically reburied them and we'll keep our dog away from them the best we can but that is not an easy task. Is there anything else we can do? I would greatly appreciate any help I do not mind sharing my home with the tortoise I just fear for the eggs. I am in Vero Beach Florida Indian River County.
Thank you   Jill

Hi Jill,
It sounds like you are doing all of the right things. My guess is that the eggs were never in a nest. Often toward the end of the nesting season, females will “shed” eggs that aren’t fertile or for other reasons that kept them from digging a nest and laying. If the eggs had been dug up, at least some of them would be broken or damaged.
Keep your eyes open for hatchling tortoises (I have attached a picture) in case there was a nest at some point. Your dog probably couldn’t kill the adult tortoise, but the hatchlings wouldn’t stand a chance.
Thanks,   Becky

Excess eggs

From: Lauraine, Subject: eggs, Date: June 27, 2013
We have 6 acres and a lot of gopher tourtoise on our property. We give them full range and try not to disturb them. One has laid eggs outside the nest and one has been eaten. Can we place them back in her nest? Or just leave them? Thank you, Lauraine

Hi Lauraine,
Just leave them. They won’t hatch and you don’t want to contaminate the burrow.
Thanks,   Becky

From: Sergio, Subject: {legal to own a} gopher turtoise ?, Date: June 19, 2013
Is it ilegal to own a Gopher Turtoise as a pet in Florida, would we need a Licence or permit

The gopher tortoise is a state listed Threatened species and it is illegal to keep one as a pet. There are situations when people are allowed to keep tortoises (habitat is being destroyed, tortoise is not capable of surviving on its own in the wild), but the new home has to be approved and permitted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Please write me back at this address if you are currently keeping a tortoise and I will advise you as to the best plan of action.
Thank you,   Becky

From: Susankronz, Subject: Gopher turtles eggs, Date: June 15, 2013
I recently saw about 3 eggs exposed to the sun not covered out side of gopher turtle hole. They were scattered about not in one clump. I know they are turtle eggs. One shell was empty, hatched or eaten. I am not sure what to do or not to do. Do you think I should cover the eggs or just leave them alone.

There is really nothing you can do. It sounds like they came either from a nest that was gotten by a predator, or that a female shed them without digging a nest cavity. Either way, after being exposed to the elements, they won’t hatch. Just leave them alone and somebody will probably come along and eat them.

From: Terry, Subject: GOPHER TURTL3, Date: June 14, 2013
I have a gopher turtle in trouble i think, his belly is very soft. Who do i call, what do i do for him? He tried to dig a hole under the house, it's still open but for some reason he can't go in. Help!

It needs to get professional attention. Please try to find a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. If you need help doing that, send me the name of your city, county, and state.
Thanks,   Becky

From: gm, Subject: Is this a Gopher Turtle?, Date: June 12, 2013 African spur-thighed tortoise (or sulcata tortoise)
Hi Rebecca,
Our neighbor has a turtle they found near the road and it is now living on their balcony. We think it might possible that it's a juvenile Gopher turtle, but we are just not sure. Can you help us identify it? If it is a Gopher turtle can you tell us who me might call to could relocate the turtle to a more appropriate setting?
Thank you,     Glennis

Hi Glennis,
It is an African spur-thighed tortoise (or sulcata tortoise), an exotic species. It probably either escaped from its owner or was released. Sulcatas are the third largest tortoise species in the world, and that one is just a baby. If your neighbors plan to keep it, they will need to do some homework to be ready to do a good job. If they don’t want it, they should take it to a zoo, nature center, or wildlife rehabilitator. Please tell them not to release it into the wild.
Feel free to write back if you or they have other questions.     Becky

From: 2516496611, Date: June 12, 2013, Subject: {Black snake in burrow}
Large gopher tortoise apron. I have a huge gopher turtle who began burrowing about a month ago near my blue berry bushes. I put out a piece of watermelon rind last week and cantaloupe this morning. I watch from inside my house. My fears were awakened as I watched a 4 or 5 foot black snake go into the burrow. What should I do? If there are eggs will the snake eat them? Will the turtle abandon the burrow?

Don’t worry about the snake. If it was a black snake, it wasn’t venomous. It is probably a black racer or an eastern indigo, which is a federally listed species. When a tortoise lays eggs, it is not in the tunnel or bottom of the burrow; she digs a chamber, often in the sandy mound outside the burrow, and buries the eggs. And the tortoise will not abandon the burrow. There are 64 documented species of vertebrates (animals with backbones) that use tortoise burrows, with and without the tortoise.
That is quite a pile of dirt! Thank you.
Write back if you have more questions or concerns.

From: Sheila, Subject: Dead Tortoise with Eggs, Date: June 11, 2013
We are in the Lake Wales, FL area. We found a dead tortoise, probably eaten by a coyote. There are still eggs in the carapace, still moist. Is there a chance they are viable? If so, should they be placed in a marshy area, then covered?
Thanks,   Sheila

Hi Sheila,
The eggs are most likely not viable anymore. If you did want to bury them, it should be about 8 inches deep in a sandy area that gets sun, not somewhere wet.

From: J. Subject: Eggs, Date: June 4, 2013
We have two or three gopher turtles in our back yard. Today when I came home, one was in the front yard laying eggs. We watched as she did this and then she covered the area with dirt and grass. Is there anything I should do to protect the eggs? I read about them taking 80 -110 days to hatch so we will be counting down the days, but didn't know if I should do anything else.

The best thing to do is protect the general area from pets and people so that your scent doesn’t attract predators.
Where do you live (county and state)? It seems late to me for egg-laying, but lots of people have been writing me about seeing it now. I am just curious.

From: Catherine, Subject: have no clue on what to do with Gopher Tortoise-PLEASE HELP!, Date: May 31, 2013
We live in a housing complex with about 200 homes in Davenport, Florida (33896). There are several swamps and a small lake in the complex. Yesterday a man almost ran over a Gopher Tortoise in the middle of the road in front of my house. He picked it up, saw me on my computer (which is in our front den easily seen from the road) and knocked on my door. He asked me if it was my pet. I said no. Neither of us had seen a Gopher Tortoise before (I've lived here for 4 years). I thought it was a big box turtle at first. He and his family were from England and staying in the area for about a week (a lot of our homes in this complex are vacation homes). So I said I would take it and later I would take it back to the lake (still thinking it was a box turtle) or one of the swamp areas. It stayed in our front yard by our front door and wasn't moving anywhere, so I left it there.
My son came home from school about 15 minutes later, saw the tortoise and knew exactly what it was right away. So I started doing research on it through the internet. This area that we live in does NOT sound like its habitat; a lot of swamps and a lake. We have NEVER seen a gopher tortoise in this area and now don't know what to do with it. We don't want it to go back in the street and get run over. We called someone that was some sort of "save the gopher tortoise" website (I think he was located around extreme northern Florida). I described to him this area and he agreed that it doesn't sound like the tortoise habitat and that he might of thought someone found the tortoise somewhere else and maybe took it as a pet or brought it here and had a change of heart and just let it go.
I have been searching for someone to call (like the Florida Wildlife Agency) but there are NO local offices- Everything is either on the East or West coast, nothing interior.
PLEASE HELP! What do we do with this tortoise- It is not injured. Do we just set it free and hope for the best?
Thanks for your time,     Mike

Hi Mike,
I suggest that you call your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
( and tell them your situation. There are also two animal rehabilitation facilities in Polk County, but I am not sure if either of them would take a tortoise. You would have to call them: and A Place for Animals 863 984 6428.
If none of this works, write me back.

From: eaaspy, { Subject: Apply as a habitat }, Date: May 23, 2013 7:30:12 PM EDT
Can you apply as a habitat for a relocated gopher tortoise?

Go to this web page: look at the information under the “recipient sites” tab.

From: Stace, Subject: Just watched tortoise lay eggs in back yard, Date: May 27, 2013
We just watched a Tortoise lay eggs in mulched flower bed in our back yard in Weston FL.
Is there something we should do to protect the eggs from predators?
I was under the impression gopher tortoise were very large; cement color .. This tortoise is about 8 inches, is it a gopher or other species .. I can provide picture.
Thank You in advance for your response.

Hi Stacey,
Yes, please, send me some pictures. Do you see a burrow anywhere around?

From: Katherine, Subject: Found a gopher in a dangerous area, what do we do?, Date: May 22, 2013
I'm from the southern area of Atlanta, Ga and my mother and I found a gopher tortoise on the side of the road on a busy and heavily populated area of town. I have been reading your Q & A area of the boards and looking into other information regarding her. I was not aware that keeping her was an illegal action until just recently. We have had her for about a week and not quite sure what to do. We have acreage to set her up a large pen with both grassy and wooded area. I am worried about taking her back to where I found her due to the dangerous (for a turtle) area. We have been feeding her lettuce and some fruits but I think she needs a more rounded diet from what I have reading on the internet. What do you suggest? Can we turn her loose in the front yard? Build a pen? We are kinda lost as to what to do. We want her to be happy and healthy but also in a safe area away from busy streets and speeding cars. Help please!

Hi Katherine,
I am not familiar with the laws in Georgia, or what resources are available to you. Please use the link below to contact your local wildlife ranger from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. They will be able to help you.

From: Arden, Subject: Gopher tortoise diet, Date: May 7, 2013
We are building a home in southwest Florida and will be incorporating a large area where the gopher tortoises that are already on the lot will be permanently relocated. We will have an authorized agent helping us when the time comes but in the meantime I'd love a list of indigenous flowering plants that the tortoises like so we can review it prior to the landscape design. Is such a list available? Thanks, Arden

Dear Arden,
Here you go, and thanks so much for caring.

From: deb, Subject: Fwd: {lethargic tortoise}, Date: May 3, 2013
Hi, I have several Gopher Tortoises in my yard and 2 dens as far as I know. One of the tortoises, the other day, stayed out of the den for several days and became what appeared to be very lethargic and depressed, sat under a tree, did not eat or drink, eyes closed, minimal response. I noticed there was another tortoise in the den. We finally took the lethargic one to a Vet that specializes in Wildlife. Tortoise was found to be dehydrated and is now receiving nutrition via a tube. So far they cannot diagnose anything. What do you think caused this , what I considered ,unusual behavior? thank you for your expertise on these animals, Debbie in Deltona, Fla

Hi Debbie,
Unless the vet draws blood and sends it out for analysis, they probably won’t be able to diagnose just based on those symptoms. Hopefully, it will be able to fight off whatever disease it has once it gets rehydrated.
I know this isn’t much information, but it’s the best I can do. Write back if you have other questions. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to help the tortoise.

From: Melissa, Subject: is tortoise sick or is it normal?, please help, really worried, Date: May 12, 2013Desert Tortoise
Hi, I’m from northern Mexico, and there’s been a gopher tortoise living in my yard for almost 2 years now. This past 2 winters, he hibernated under the branches of an evergreen bush in my yard. (it’s a big place and it’s well hidden and full of roots). This year, he woke from hibernation the last week of March , just like last year. He fed normally, but I noticed he was slower and didn’t look for food as much(only if I put the food near him). 2 weeks after that, an unusual cold hit town (temperature reaching 10ºC) and the tortoise hid again on his usual hibernation spot. That cold lasted about 2 weeks. The temperatures are back to normal again and about 2-3 weeks have passed and he still hasn’t come out.
I don’t know if I should try to move him or try to wake him up. Is it normal to go back to hibernation if unsually cold temperatures happen or are this symptoms he is sick? Also when the tortoise first came to my yard, he had his shell painted, so I can’t tell if he is dead just by looking at his shell.
Please help! I’m sending a picture of the tortoise before he went back into hiding, maybe by the size you can guess its age?
Thank you so much!

The tortoise you have is most likely a desert tortoise or a Texas tortoise. Please see their website for more information and contacts.
The gopher tortoise is confined to the southeast U.S.

From: Paul, Subject: Tortoise Removal, Date: May 12, 2013
I have three Gopher Tortoise burrows in my yard in Canaveral Groves. Two are by the fences on the North and South sides of my lot. One is in the back near the rear fence.
I just noticed a hole by the foundation of my house. How can I find out if he/she is in the hole and evict him/her? I don't mind the holes by the fences but don't like the one by
the house foundation. I would like to relocate the critter near the fences and fill the hole by the foundation.

Hi Paul,
You do not need to worry that the tortoise will damage your foundation. Once it hits concrete, it will stop digging or turn away. However, if you want to relocate the tortoise, you will need a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. You can apply for a permit on-line at

From: Carl, Subject: Burrows { occupied? }, Date: May 13, 2013
I am in the process of buying a 6 acre lot in southern Brevard county about 1/2 mile from the Indian river. I see multiple areas that appear to be GT burrows and aprons that have been abandoned. Some have collapsed and the burrow filled in with sand/dirt. I am able to find three that appear viable but there was a heave rain yesterday and I don't see any sign of new digging or repair of the burrows and In have not been able to spot any GT's or tracks. My question is, what is the best way to determine if GT's are present in a burrow area? Thanks
Kind Regards,     Carl

Hi Carl,
The best way is to go there around 11:00 a.m. and sneak up to the burrows. Very often, tortoises will be sitting just inside and you can see them, or they will be out feeding. The time to do that will get earlier as the weather gets warmer. It is not likely that all of the burrows will be occupied, but at least some of them should if there are still decent-looking burrows.
Feel free to write me back if you have other questions, and good luck!

From: Linda, Subject: { Sprinkler system being installed }, Date: May 13, 2013
Hi David, I live in Pasco County in Port Richey, Fl. Who are local contacts for our gopher tortoise's? There are two with burrows behind us that I watch over on a school ground. Someone, 3 people, have been out to see them recently due to the school ground putting in sprinkler systems. I would like a local contact in case I need help.
Thank you, Linda

Hi Linda,
Below is the link to your regional Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission office. You might want to call and speak to a biologist there if you think there is trouble brewing.

From: Kirsten, Subject: Found tortoise, Date: May 14, 2013Found gopher tortoise
Please help. My daughter has found a tortoise on the way home from school. Being the animal lover and "rescuer" she is...(*she's found hatchlings, an injured water turtle, a baby mouse nearly drowned in our outside dog bowl)...she brought it home to care for it. I'm afraid its a protected tortoise! We have researched but just unsure. We've fed it leafy greens and rinds. He's friendly and seems that he may have been a pet! What should i do, and can you tell me for sure what type it is. He's got elephant like hind legs, with what seems like spikes on either side.
Thanks for the help.
Bella and family, Ft Laud. FL

Hi Bella,
It is a gopher tortoise and is a legally protected species. The best thing to do is take it back to where she picked it up and put it in whatever dry habitat is available out of harm’s way. If you can’t do this for some reason, please write me back.

From: Nancy, Subject: Mating, Date: April 24, 2013
I have had the same Gopher Tortoise on the other side of my fence for close to 5 years. I named him Felix. I noticed that there is now another tortoise hanging out. My question is will the male and female stay in the same burrow until the babies hatch? Do they take turns watching over the eggs? I did not see the female lay eggs but isn't it unusual for two tortoises to cohabitate? I love my tortoises. I have another that has been in the same burrow for close to 5 years. He was black/rust when a new baby. Now he is the normal color.
Thank you for responding,     Nancy

Hi Nancy,
Gopher tortoises typically have several burrows within their home range that they use. It is not unusual for two tortoises to be in a burrow at the same time, but very often it is two males or two females. Reptiles, except for alligators, do not show parental care. They lay the eggs and leave them. They don’t guard the nest, or feed or defend the young.
Sounds like you have a great situation! If you have any other questions, feel free to write me back.

Very small tortoise to be identified

12398877879, April 24, 2013, Subject: Fwd: {photo of tortoise hatchling}
This is what the little.guy looked like. He was crawling around a pool deck in sanibel. I figured it was better to relocate a nonnative than remove a gopher. We just moved him to a preserve behind where we were staying so he didnt fall in the water again. I looked up a lot of pictures but he did seem to look like one...

Sorry. I can’t tell. If you Google “sulcata hatchling pictures” and “gopher tortoise hatchling pictures”, you will see how similar they look at that age.

From: Michael, Subject: What sort of tortoise is this please?, Date: April 15, 2013
I found it against my lanai screen door and moved it to the side of the house in the shade and left it alone to do its own thing... It looks too big to be a gopher tortoise no? Thanks!
Big gopher tortoise

It is a gopher tortoise.

From: gringita, Subject: Looking for info about fencing off gopher tortoise burrow, Date: April 18, 2013,
I just moved out onto a rural 5 acres. My dog has since become obsessed with a gopher tortoise hole. I am concerned for my dog's safety (I have no idea whether it is actually a tortoise living in the hole) and for the tortoise (if he or she is in there.) I was considering fencing off the hole with a clearance height for the tortoise to get out and the dog not to get in. I was wondering if this is a good idea (and what kind of clearance would be necessary) or if there are any suggestions you could give me? I will be training my dog not to go after the tortoises if I can actually come across one that I can show him.
Thank you so much for being a source of information. I was doing a google search and urs was the first page to give real hands on advice, so thank you.
- jennifer

Hi Jennifer,
I think your fence idea is good. If you measure the height of the burrow, you will know how "tall" the tortoise is. Make it as high off the ground as you can without letting the dog fit under.
Legally, you need to stay 25 feet away from the burrow.
You might want to wait a bit longer. My dogs used to go crazy over an injured tortoise I was keeping, but after a while, they got bored and ignored it.
Write back if you have more questions.

From: Chris, Subject: hi from de Land {encouraging tortoises to move away from house }, Date: April 11, 2013
hi i live in deland on 5 acres, i have alot of gopher turtles on my property, i like them, but they are starting to burrow closer and closer to the house, what can i do to entice them to move back to where they were living in the back of the property. Now i also bought the property 2 years ago and the majority of grass on the property was in the back, now the majority is around the house and lanai. I heard from Dr. Holder (she is my dog vet) that they like dandelions. i have a lot of room at the back of the property to plant them, do you think that this food will draw them back to their old burrows?
thanks       Chris

Hi Chris,
Your solution is just what you said. The food has moved toward the house, so the tortoises will follow. You need to make the area where you want them more attractive than where you don’t want them. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote that I think will help you. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.
If you have any questions, write me back.       Becky

From: Robert, Subject: Baby Golpher turtle, Date: March 29, 2013
Hello, I found a very small baby Golpher turtle in my dogs mouth, he did not injure it at all, we are in a fenced yard and I could not find his hole, so I put him back in his mother's den,which is also in our yard, is this ok to do? I am concerned about this little guy due to our weather here still being quite cold at night. The female hole is the only one in our yard, she dug it after we put up our farm fence, 2 years ago. Thank you, Rob

Hi Rob,
Young tortoises often use adult burrows, so that was a perfect thing to do.
Thanks,      Becky

From: Lisa, Subject: Tortoise living in my side yard, Date: March 28, 2013
Hello a few weeks ago I investigated what I thought was a small snake or rodent burrow in my yard and was shocked to see a little (a bit bigger than the size of a deck of cards) turtle there. I researched and finally determined it was a gopher tortoise. I am fine with him (or her) living there and have marked the area so we’re careful with the mower, etc. I’ve seen it a few times but never outside it’s burrow…usually just sunning itself near the entrance and he scootches back in when I get too near. My question is – it the tortoise OK? Is there anything I should be doing for it? Will it always use this hole or will it leave and come back to nest or whatever another time? Thank you!

Hi Lisa,
From what I can tell from your description, it sounds like the tortoise is fine. It may be two or three years old. At that age, they don’t have too many burrows and don’t travel around much. It is good that you are mowing so that there is low grass for him to eat. How long he sticks around will depend on what there is available for food and if he/she decides to look for a mate (that could take many years).
     I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote that deals with tortoises in the yard. It has some good information in it. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.
     Thanks, and write me back in you have more questions.     Becky

From: Roberto, Subject: gopher tortoise on my yard, Date: March 27, 2013
hello i recently found a tortoise in the road in front of my house, at first i thought it was a sulcata so i picked it up and made a home and an enclosure for it in my back yard i found out a couple days later that it was indeed a gopher tortoise and that they are endangered and protected so i imediately let him loose in my back yard whitch has a wooded area right outside my fence hoping he would leave out of the many holes i have in the fence but it has been a couple days now and hes still currently in my back yard and took a liking to a corner of my yard where i have a few trees, should i leave him there, call florida wild life or is there something else you would suggest me to do. Thanks

Has it dug a burrow in your yard, or is it spending the night in any hole or shelter? Are there any burrows around your house anywhere that you know about? What state and county do you live in?
     Write me back and we will figure out a plan.     Becky

From: Diane, Subject: Gopher Tortoise hanging out on my driveway, Date: March 22, 2013
On Wednesday of this week, a gopher tortoise about 7” long showed up right outside my garage door. He stayed there all day and night, not moving from the spot I first discovered him in. By nightfall, his eyes were closed and he did not shy back into his shell at my approach the way he did that afternoon. He appeared to have a drip coming from one of his nostrils at that point. I feared he was going to breathe his last right there, but by the next day he had worked his way down to the other end of the garage door, still just staying on the concrete, nestled up against the door. This morning (Friday), he is in the same spot near the end of the garage door, and goes back into his shell when I come near him.
     Should I move him onto the grass, or just leave him be? Is he in some kind of hibernation mode, or is it more likely there’s something wrong with him since he seems to be so lethargic?
Thanks,     Diane

Hi Diane,
My suggestion is to find a wildlife rehabilitator or wild animal hospital in your area and take him there. His behavior does not sound normal. Write me back if you need help finding a place.

From: Schofields, Subject: {Tortoise in shallow hole for 4 days}., Date: March 17, 2013
1) How long does it take a Florida gopher turttle to lay there eggs. We have one that has dug a shallow hole in our front garden and has been there for 4 days. My wife is worried that it may be ill. in the north port area in Florida.
2) Yes please. Could you please give us info for someone in the north port area in Florida. Thank you in advance.

1) If the tortoise is still there, or you see it somewhere else in your yard outside of a burrow, please find a wildlife rehabilitator or vet with reptile experience and take the tortoise there. This is not nesting season and the behavior you describes indicates a potential problem. Your wife is probably right.
If you need help finding a place to take it, send me your city location and I will try to help.
2) I could not find anything in North Port, but here is a website for a place in Venice. Their website looks very professional and even has a gopher tortoise picture on it. Hopefully, it is not too far from where you are. Most of the other rehabbers I saw either only take pets or specialize in birds. Please check out the website and if this won’t work for you, let me know.

From: Julie, Subject: {My two year old granddaughter's thumb was bitten}, Date: March 8, 2013
My two year old granddaughter's thumb was bitten by a gopher turtle today, breaking the skin in two places. Do gopher turtles carry diseases we should be worried about? Tonight her whole thumb is pretty red. Thank you!
Worried Grandma

Hey Grandma,
I hope your granddaughter’s thumb is ok (I just saw this email this morning, or I would have answered more quickly). The main thing I would be concerned about is infection from the bite. Just make sure she keeps it clean and put some antibiotic ointment on it. If it gets worse or at least doesn’t get better in a day or two, I would take her to a doctor to get it checked.

From: GMGbridge, Subject: are gopher tortoises nocturnal?, Date: March 10, 2013
are gopher tortoises nocturnal?
thanks       Gary

Gopher tortoises are typically diurnal (active only during the day). However, they have been documented feeding at night occasionally. This happens when air temperatures are hot during the day and it is more comfortable for them to feed when it is cooler.

From: Karinne, Subject: Baby Gopher turtle {cold}, Date: March 1, 2013
We found a baby Gopher Turtle today and we know it is going to drop well below the 50's tonight. We brought it to a near by Gopher Turtle hole across the street. I am wondering if this was the right thing to do. Should I have contacted the Florida Fish and wildlife services?
Thank you in advance, Karinne.

Hi Karinne,
That was perfect. Thanks.

From: SRMK, Subject: Communication etc., Date: February 16, 2013
Since the temperature is dropping tonight, the girls were relocated to a climate controlled environment. It has been over ten years since I wrote you about my gopher tortoises, who I now know are females. LB (almost 54 years old) & 2B has been LB's friend for over 50 years. LB & 2B (real names not used to protect their identity) have been cared for by my family for over 50 years. LB was newly hatched when my grandfather gave her to me on my 5th birthday. LB does not hiss & does not easily retract into her shell. 2B had been in the wild for at least 3 years before joining our family and does hiss some & is more likely to retract. I remember LB would move her head up & down when she and I were nose to nose (& in my child's mind was giving me affirmative answers to questions). I have seen the head bobbing communication between the girls so I am guessing it is something beyond mating communication. Although they might have had 'better' lives in the wild, they could not now survive unprotected. They are pampered and loved.
Are you aware of any other gophers who have similar stories?

I was told by one elderly man that lived up north about when he was a young kid, his family picked up a tortoise while on vacation in Florida and took it home. He had it over 30 years, but was having to move into assisted living. I helped him find a new home for the tortoise at an education center in North Carolina. All’s well that ends well.
Your story is different, and although I never encourage people to take animals out of the wild, it is a pretty cool story.
Regarding the head bobbing, that is how one tortoise asserts dominance over another. Your girls are probably arguing over who is boss. When you were a kid, maybe the tortoise thought you were another member of the family that needed to be put in its place!
Thanks for telling me this. Feel free to write back anytime.     Becky

From: Ben, Subject: African Spur thighed tortoise flipping, Date: February 14, 2013
African Spur Tortoise
i live in Europe and i have an African Spur thighed tortoise maybe 1.5 to 2 years old, and i sometimes find her on her back. She lives by herself and i know that its fatal if they are left on their back.
But can they flip themselves back over? Can they be trained or encouraged to learn? Or is it impossible for them to do it by themselves..?
I have read so many mixed reviews about this online i thought it best to ask someone who knows.
Thanks so much     Ben

Hi Ben,
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I “know” about this. Gopher tortoises (the species I do know about), will try to flip each other over when they are fighting. However, if your tortoise is by herself, that can’t be happening. That tells me she is climbing on things and flips over by accident. Are you sure that her pen is large enough? African spur thighs grow quickly and get very large. If she feels cramped, she may be circling around the pen and climbing on the fence. I have attached links to websites that will give you some guidance on taking good care to the tortoise.
Look those pages over and see if space might be the problem. If you have questions, please feel free to write me back.

From: amy, Subject: wanting to help a gopher turtle {from a development}, Date: February 13, 2013
Hi Becky,
I live in Titusville (Hidden Oaks Subdivision) and a gopher turtle lives on the empty lot next door to us. He has been there for years. The lot is going to be cleared very soon, probably within a week, and I would like to somehow help the gopher turtle because his home will be destroyed when the lot is cleared. What can I do?
Thank you,     Amy

Hi Amy,
It is illegal for the developer to destroy a burrow or entomb a tortoise; tortoises have to be relocated or the developer is breaking the law. Below is a link to your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. You can call them and ask if there is a relocation permit. Give them the address of the property and the developer’s name if you have it. I would also go take some pictures of the burrow and the tortoise (although I doubt he will be out today in this weather). If you can get something in the picture that indicates where you are, that is best, but often difficult to do.
If you have the developer’s contact information, you can call him and ask about the relocation permit. If he says there is one, ask to see it or ask what the permit number is so you can check it with the Wildlife Commission. If nothing else, that will put him on notice that somebody is paying attention.
Please write me back if you need more help. Thanks for caring.     Becky

From: Jeannie, Subject: gopher communication, Date: February 10, 2013
I have one male and one female gopher tortoise living in my back yard. I have read that they can neither vocalize nor hear sound but if that were true their mating behavior seems inexplicable.
The male does his head-bobbing thing at the female's burrow entrance and if the female is interested she comes out and looks him over. But since she starts out underground she cannot see him up there on the surface bobbing away. How does she know someone is outside asking for a date?

It is true that gophers don’t hear very well, at least in the way we think of “hearing”. However, they do feel vibrations very strongly. They also see pretty well. Maybe the female feels or sees the bobbing. Very often, tortoises will sit in the tunnel not all the way at the bottom, so she might be able to see a male from there. I suppose there could be some smelling involved as well.
Just guessing!     Becky

From: Leah, Subject: 10 acre nature area behind my home, Date: February 8, 2013
I would like the recommendation you gave about resources for keeping g.t. happy in an empty lot in a built neighborhood. We have a large minimally maintained recreation area with 20 borrow hole located. I'm looking for the best habitat reference material.     Thanks.     Leah

Hi Leah,
Attached is the information that I believe you want. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only please.
Feel free to write back if you have more questions.     Becky

From: Jerry, Subject: Relocation {to my property}, Date: February 2, 2013
I have a 200 acre Longleaf pine plantation in south Alabama which was planted about seven years ago on sandy soil. Because it was previously scrub brush it is without any Gopher Tortoises and I would like to add some. Can you advise me on who I could contact to assist in properly finding some and the safe and legal methods of relocating?

Hi Jerry,
Below is a link to the Alabama wildlife agency. It talks about several programs that help landowners enhance their land for wildlife. Check those out and try to contact the appropriate folks through those channels.

From: Kristian, Subject: Tortoise {Purchased}, Date: February 1, 2013
I bought a gopher tortoise in a South Carolina pet store. I'm wondering if they are legal in Miami

Gopher tortoises are legally protected either by the states or federally throughout their range, so it is very doubtful that a pet store would sell one. You can’t legally keep one anywhere without a permit. Would you please email me some pictures of the tortoise so I can try to figure out what kind it is?
Thank you,       Becky

From: Michael, Subject: Girlfriends turtle {ill?}, Date: January 26, 2013
My girlfriend is caring for a gopher tortoise and shes concerned it might not have eaten enough before going into hibernation, now it wont move or eat and she said its shell is soft and thinks its dying because others from the same litter have been dying this week. Anything she can do? She cant take it to any vet because none within 50 miles or so have any experience with them. Help?

Please try to find a wildlife rehabilitator and take the tortoise there immediately. If you don’t know where to take it, write me back with your county and state and I will try to find somewhere for you.
Thank you,     Becky

From: Bcgc2, Subject: Sharing with a gopher tortoise, Date: January 23, 2013
A gopher tortoise has built a burrow in my yard. I feel honored to have it here.
I do not use chemical fertilizers, weed killers, or insecticides. What else can I do to avoid distressing my new resident? I have felt concerned about the possible effect of lawn mowing and blower cleanup. I know it is in this burrow now, because I see fresh tracks daily in the sand outside one of the entrances.
Thank you!

I am very happy to hear that you are glad to have your new neighbor. It is important that you continue to mow the grass so that it stays short and tender and is available to the tortoise for food. Just avoid running over the top of the burrow. The blower shouldn’t bother him.
I have attached a chapter from a workbook written by a friend of mine. It should have some useful information for you. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions. Enjoy!

From: Joyce, Subject: Eggs laid in January, Date: January 21, 2013
      I was reading some of your questions and answers to find out when gopher turtles lay eggs. I too have a gopher turtle that might have laid eggs in January. I have at least two gopher turtles with dens on either side of my property. One tortoise dug a small hole in my yard about 10 feet from its den. It is now covered with sand. There are claw marks made by a tortoise. I put a rock near to keep and eye on it. My property is near Lake Kerr at the edge of the Ocala Forrest. She laid the eggs sometimes between January 12 -19. I will keep an eye it.

      Yes, Joyce, please do watch it. I would be very surprised if it ever hatches, but I would never say never. Typical incubation time is 90 days, but in colder weather, I would expect it to be longer. If it does hatch, that would be big news in the gopher tortoise world.
      Keep me posted!      Thanks,      Becky

From: Lisa, Subject: Gopher Tortoise on Fence Line, Date: January 15, 2013
    Hi, we just moved into a home in Lithia Florida and we have a GT burrow in our back yard. We have a dog and three cats. Our cats have been very interested in the burrow and have put their heads pretty far into the hole. The GT still comes out, but not as frequently as before we let our cats out. The dog doesn't bother her too much as we are always with her when near the hole.
      We want to put up a fence for our dog, but the burrow would be either just inside or possibly just outside (thus reducing the area for the dog) the fence. But with the cats and the dog in close proximity, unsupervised with the fence up - would the turtle move on its own or do we need to call and try to get a permit. Would they even move the turtle for these reasons? We live right next door to a protected GT area as well.
    Thanks in advance.      Lisa

Hi Lisa,
      As long as you don’t bury the fence underneath the ground, the tortoise can dig out if it wants to leave. You might dig a small escape hole under the fence near the burrow so it can have access in and out of your yard. Have you noticed whether or not it is in that burrow all of the time? In “natural” situations, tortoises have several burrows in their home range, but often in more disturbed areas, they will only use one burrow.
      I would go ahead and put up the fence. Leave a hole if you can do that without your pets using it as well. Write me back if you run into any problems.

From: Robert and Samantha, Subject: Hibernation, Date: January 10, 2013
Does a gopher tortoise hibernate during the winter in Georgia? Are they prevalent in north Georgia? How do I create a habitat for one and what would I feed him.     Robert

Hi Robert,
      Yes, gopher tortoises will become inactive in the winter in the more northern portions of their range. It is a process called aestivation, not hibernation, but it is essentially the same idea and what cold-blooded reptiles do. Here is a link to a website from the Gopher Tortoise Council that has a nice range map.
      You will also see from the map that tortoises are federally protected in the western portion of the range and are protected by the states everywhere else they occur. Therefore, it is illegal to keep them or feed them, and you are supposed to let them go about their business unimpeded or harassed. I don’t know how far north you are, but if you are very far above that line on the map, the tortoise could have been brought there by a person and either escaped or was released. If it has not dug its own burrow and is being exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees at night, you should pick it up and take it to a wildlife rehabilitator in your area.
      Please write me back if you have other questions or if I can help with this situation.
Thanks,      Becky


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