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Gopher tortoise drinking from puddles in parking lot in the rain.
A tortoise in the rain drinking from puddles.

Gopher Tortoise -- "Ask an Expert"

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From: Ellie, Subject: Removal of gopher, Date: December 5, 2016
Hello, We have a tortoise who has made residence in our community. I love seeing him, but he has burrowed under our clubhouse patio & we are afraid it may cause structural damage & cause cracking or collapsing of our patio so we need to have him removed/ relocated. We are in Pasco County Fl. Could you please direct me to who we can call for help?
Sincerely, Ellie

Hi Ellie,
I often get notes from people that have gopher tortoises digging next to buildings, sidewalks, pools, etc. Not once have I seen or heard of a burrow causing structural damage.
However, if you want to investigate relocating the tortoise, you can apply for a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission online ( If you need more information, please feel free to write me back.

From: klcnrjm, Subject: Injured turtle in hole, Date: November 29, 2016
I live in the country in sarasota county florida and have quite a few turtles that have been on our property for years. Today when I was pulling in my driveway I rounded the corner and saw something out of the corner of my eye and stopped, but I had run over the back leg of the turtle. He took off dragging the back left leg where I hit him but by the time I brought my daughter inside so she didn't see him injured he was already in his hole. I called a local wildlife rescue to see if they would come help but they said they couldn't unless I had him already. Is there a safe way to get him out of the hole so he can be picked up and helped? Thanks.

You can try to catch it by hand while it is out of the burrow and then take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. Watch for it to be outside the hole when the days are warm (>70 degrees). You can also contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ( They may be able to help or give you other options.
I am sorry this happened and know that you feel badly. Please understand that tortoises are resilient animals and that it may recover on its own.
Feel free to write back if you need more information.

From: Lydiannette, Subject: Baby tortoise, Belleview FL, Date: November 28, 2016
A youhg Gopher tortoise Hello Becky, yesterday my family and I were at the cemetery and we saw this little tortoise wandering around... I've been searching the Internet for some answers and I found your page... We're still curious about what species it is... please let me know if you have any information on it...
Thank you, Lydiannette

Hi Lydiannette,
It is a very young gopher tortoise. If you brought it home with you, please take it back as soon as possible.
Thanks, Becky

From: "emyers, Subject: Found 2 gopher turtles, Date: November 18, 2016
I found 2 gophers near my house. One of them went into a burrow with the other. I know that is only typical during mating season which is in the spring. Is it possible for them to mate in the fall? It souded as if they may have been fighting. Im just concerned and wanted to ask. Im not bothering them or attempting to move them...I know not to. Just wanted to get some info in case there is something I need to do/ look out for. Thanks

We found from radiotracking gopher tortoises that they often share burrows and it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with mating. Many times, the two tortoises in one burrow would both be males or both be females. Also, if the tortoises were startled by your approach, they would both go into the closest burrow to escape danger.
Feel free to write back if you have more questions.

From: Penny, Subject: One more question to my original....., Date: November 13, 2016
Once baby turtles are born do they stay with the mother for any period of time or are they on their own?
Thanks! Penny

Hi Penny,
Female gopher tortoise eggs do not form until after mating, so the "pregnancy" time is 80 - 110 days depending on where they are located (i.e., latitude). In animals, we call it being gravid. It is generally accepted that once the young hatch from the eggs, they are on their own. More study is needed on that subject.
Regarding Big Earl: when tortoises fight, they try to turn each other over. Maybe there's a bigger (or trickier) tortoise out there! The hopping that you see from Hopper is just his way of trying to scare off the dog.
Feel free to write back if you have more questions. Have fun!

From: lone ranger, Subject: Gopher turtles burrow, Date: November 5, 2016
What happens if you were to cover a gopher turtles hole up? Will it move to a new location? Or will it redig its hole?

First of all, it is illegal to cover up a gopher tortoise burrow. And if you do, the tortoise will probably just dig out or dig in, depending on which side of the hole it was on when you collapsed it.

From: Karen, Subject: Hurricane Matthew survival of gopher tortoise, Date: November 6, 2016
Iamvery curious..
Many areas of ST Augustine beach were severely flooded during the hurricane Matthew. What generally happens to these gopher tortoise' during this type of situation when dunes are severely flooded?

Hi, Gopher tortoises can stay in flooded burrows, sticking their noses out above the water line occasionally to breathe. However, if the burrow stays flooded for a long period of time, they will move to higher ground to an existing burrow or dig a new one. Depending on the condition of the original burrow, they might eventually come back to it. It is typical for one tortoise to have several burrows scattered throughout its home range.

From: Kylie, Subject: Always sleeping, Date: November 1, 2016
I have a red eared slider and is always sleeping. What do I do?

IThere is probably something about the way you are housing the turtle that is slowing down its metabolism. They are cold-blooded and need to be kept at specific temperatures and light levels to be healthy. Here are a couple of care sheets that will help you give the turtle what it needs.

From: will, Subject: Eggs and burrows, Date: October 30, 2016
I have a few things I'd like to discuss. I haven't found any information specifically on the observations I've made of the gopher tortoises within my yard or acreage. I do believe this goes against what normal behavior would be considered for this genus. Thank you

If there is one thing I know for sure about gopher tortoises, it is that they don't follow the rules. Please send descriptions and photos if you have them of anything you think is out of the ordinary.
Thanks, Becky

From: Arron, Subject: Road baby, Date: October 27, 2016
Baby Gopher tortoise from road. Found a baby turtle on the road what do I do with it

Please take it back to where you found it and release it out of harm's way as soon as possible. Off the side of the road in the grass or bushes will work.
Thank you, Becky

From: "ridgidrider, Subject: what kind of turtle. about 3 feet across lives in florida, Date: October 20, 2016
African spurred tortoise Looks like an African spurred tortoise (also called sulcata tortoise), an exotic species. It either escaped or was intentionally released. If you know where it is, please take it to a wildlife rehabilitator.
Write me back if you need more information.

From: Robbie, Subject: Baby Gopher Tortoise for sale (!?!), Date: October 5, 2016
Gopher tortoises for sale While scanning my Facebook account, I found one of those "Sell It" Facebook pages, their profile photo is someone holding baby Gopher Tortoise (which makes me sick, I've already turned in one shop in West Melbourne to the Police Dept. for selling them). Here is their Facebook address
I used to live in Canaveral Groves, saw a neighbor placing chicken wire around several turtle mounds, then I turned him in. He was catching them to eat. SICK.
Thank you for any help you can give on stopping this exploitation,

Hi Robbie,
Those are diamondback terrapin juveniles. They have no legal protection, which is unfortunate. Many researchers here believe their populations are in trouble because of crab traps and road mortality.
Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I will see if anything can be done, but I'm not hopeful. Maybe if I just ask the page owners not to sell wildlife, they will listen.

From: Arwhen, Subject: sonora desert tortoise Date: October 8, 2016 hello I am now living in florida and have 2 female sonoran desert tortoises. (30 yrs old and 7 yrs old) they were obtained legally from Mexico..... my question is this .if they are outside, in their own enclosure, can the wild tortoises of florida make them sick? or vice-a-versa? thanks so much enjoy your site a lot of information.....I am a vet tech with a nutrition certificate / specialty in reptiles... 45 years exp with tortoises............ still cant find any info on this topic.. cindy

Hi Cindy,
As long as the pen is secure and they can't have physical contact with wild gopher tortoises, they should be fine.
Welcome to Florida! Becky

From: Don, Subject: Navigating, Date: October 3, 2016
I was wondering how Gopher Tortoises navigate. I have several in my yard and the lots on both sides of me. One was trapped against a fence so I picked it up and put it down in my back yard near where I thought its burrow was. It immediately turned around and headed back to the neighboring lot and as I followed it, it went into a burrow there which had to be a good 400 yards away. How did it know where it was and able to find it's way back home?

Hi Don,
There are many theories as to how tortoises know where to go when they are displaced. One is that they navigate using the sun. However, that doesn't explain how they occasionally move around at night. Other theories include odor cues, landmarks, and magnetics.
In other words, we don't know for sure.

From: Jynelle, Subject: Identify this please!, Date: September 30, 2016
Hatchling gopher tortoise It's hard to tell the difference. Almost ran over by a car but I just carried him to the sidewalk.

It looks like a hatchling gopher tortoise. Thank you for rescuing and releasing it.

From: Debbie, Subject: Sick gopher, Date: September 16, 2016
Baby gopher tortoise - sick? I found a very small gopher tortoise in my back yard yesterday and have been trying to ignore him as I know you aren't supposed to bother them. My problem is, this one stays in the same place and doesn't move unless I touch his shell. Later in the day I noticed ants on him (that's what made me step in). I've brought him in, put him in a box on sand with water and a heat lamp. His eyes don't open at all. I've put warm water on a cloth to wipe away anything that could be on them but nothing. He doesn't move around much either. I am just trying to give him a chance. What do you suggest?
Thanks, Debbie

Please take him to a wildlife rehabilitator or wildlife hospital asap.
Thank you, Becky Bolt

From: BITTER, Subject: Controlled Rearing Efforts, Date: September 23, 2016
Hello Ms. Bolt,
Is there any value in establishing a protected rearing environment for Gopher Tortoises?
Is there a location in Brevard County that does this type of work today?
How do you keep track of tortoise population locations when they are often surrounded by communities?
Regards     Mark

Hi Mark,
I am not sure what you mean by a “protected rearing environment”. Are you talking about a place to raise young tortoises or do you mean a place to take tortoises that are displaced by development?
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has legal jurisdiction in all tortoise matters. Their tortoise webpage is at They permit several recipient sites across the state to which tortoises can be relocated. None of those are in Brevard County.
There is no state-wide system to keep track of tortoise population numbers. Individual areas/parks/refuges, etc., may do their own surveys, but many small, isolated populations go uncounted and maybe undetected.
If you have more questions, feel free to write back.

From: 3214467345, {Subject: Flooded burrow}, Date: September 22, 2016
We've had a lot of rain, will gopher turtle stay in their hole or will it flood and they have to leave until water subsides

Tortoises will sit in flooded burrows, especially if the water is suitable for their temperature needs (i.e., water warmer than the air in winter, cooler than the air in summer). However, if a burrow is flooded for a long period of time, they will probably go elsewhere. They may or may not come back to it when things dry out.

From: Billi, Subject: Hatchling, Date: September 21, 2016
I found a baby in my backyard, in a sandy area. She's so tiny. I just want to know the best time of day to release her? Also, should I put her near a large burrow, in the vegetation, or by what looks like a small burrow.
That is for your help.
BJ. Hernando county, Florida

Hi BJ,
This time of year, it is best to release the hatchling either during the mid-morning or late afternoon, but definitely not in the heat of the day. I would place it inside the mouth of the adult burrow (be careful not to put your hands into the burrow where you can’t see). Adults and younger tortoises often share.
Thank you,     Becky

From: gta5 gamer, Subject: Phoenix, Arizona, Date: September 19, 2016Arizona turtle
I moved into my house a little over a year ago and shortly after we moved in we got a dog. I have a big green back yard so I spend a ton of time back there. One day about 4 months after moving in, my puppy found this tiny guy. I took care of it for a few days trying to keep my dog from playing with it to death and one day I was outside watching it roam, I went into the house for 2 minutes and when I came back it was gone! Now a year later I still think about it hoping it is ok. My dog has not found it and there is no way for it to get out of the back yard so I'm not really sure how it got back there to begin with. Is there anything I can do to locate it or maybe find out where it went? I now have 2 big dogs so I'm scared they will hurt it. I'm still confused on how it got in my yard. I love in a huge city, no where for him to come from... I don't think. Please tell me how to track it down, if it's still back there at all, so I can find the proper people to take it. Thank you so much.

This looks like a pond slider. It is a water turtle that will live in freshwater lakes, ponds, or ditches. They are not native to Arizona and was probably released or escaped from somewhere near your house by someone that had it in captivity.
Other than looking around any freshwater sources in the area, I don’t know of any way to find it.

From: Joseph, Subject: Gopher tortoise in my yard, Date: September 18, 2016
I have a gopher tortoise burrow in my yard, because of heavy rain , it created a sinkhole in my yard, I noticed he started to dig in another direction , unfortunately we wanted to put pavers above the area he is now borrowing under, will that affect the tortoise burrow? Also if I fill in the hole that was created will that affect him?

Hi Joe,
Will you email me some pictures? It is difficult for me to understand what you mean.
Are you placing the pavers on the ground, or do you have to dig them in?

From: Wendy, Subject: Gopher tortoise burrow in my back yard - I'd love to know more so I can help it thrive. Lutz, FL, Date: September 15, 2016
Our backyart tortoiseHi,
We've had a gopher tortoise burrow in our back yard for about 2 years and, after reading several of the posts on your page, I would love to more about the gopher. Would you be able to forward me that chapter from the workbook that you mention in several of your responses? I'm also curious if it's worth trying to have a professional wildlife service relocate this gopher since it is still fairly young? I don't mind it living in the backyard at all, in fact I love tortoises, I'm just scared of it ingesting insecticides or getting mowed accidentally. We actually quit having the lawn sprayed once we discovered it because we didn't want it to be harmed but now our lawn is really full of weeds and I'm pretty sure our HOA is not happy about it.
Your expertise is greatly appreciated! I've attached a couple of pictures of my backyard neighbor.
Thank you,     Wendy

Hi Wendy,
Here are a couple of links to webpages where you can get more tortoise information. I have also attached the chapter you mentioned; it is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.;
It is unlikely that you could get a permit to move the tortoise. Your situation is quite common and there is nowhere to put all of the tortoises that are living in people’s yards. From your pictures, it looks to be at least 5 or 6 years old.
Regarding the HOA, you can tell them that the tortoise is a protected animal and that doing anything to harm it, its burrow, or habitat is a federal offense. That should get their attention. J
Write back if you need anything else.     Becky

From: Mark, Subject: Gopher Tortoise in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, Date: August 28, 2016
Misplaced Tortoise in Oklahoma
Found tortoise in the City of Bethany, which is a suburb of Oklahoma City, crossing a four lane highway in a location where there was not good habitat for him. He was hungry, thirsty and thin. He looks to have been run over a few years ago based upon his shell damage. Since gopher tortoises are not native to Oklahoma we are looking for home for him in one of his native states. Do you know of anyone who would take him or a contact for possible homes? We could release him in the country but he likely would not find a mate and burrowing in the clay in the area may be too difficult for him.I have attached a few photos for confirmation he is a gopher tortoise and to show you his condition.Thanks for your assistance.     Mark

Once a gopher tortoise has been taken out of state, it cannot be returned. My suggestion is that you take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. The poor thing looks like it could use some t.l.c. If it is or becomes healthy, it may be suitable for a zoo or park that can use it as an education animal.

From: Debbie, Subject: Sick gopher, Date: September 16, 2016Sick baby gopher tortoise
I found a very small gopher tortoise in my back yard yesterday and have been trying to ignore him as I know you aren't supposed to bother them. My problem is, this one stays in the same place and doesn't move unless I touch his shell. Later in the day I noticed ants on him (that's what made me step in). I've brought him in, put him in a box on sand with water and a heat lamp. His eyes don't open at all. I've put warm water on a cloth to wipe away anything that could be on them but nothing. He doesn't move around much either. I am just trying to give him a chance. What do you suggest?
Thanks,     Debbie

Please take him to a wildlife rehabilitator or wildlife hospital asap.
Thank you,     Becky Bolt

From: Kathryn, Subject: gopher turtle in flower bed, Date: September 10, 2016
Is there anything I can do to get this creature to dig elsewhere?
Thanks,     Kathy

Hi Kathy,
Probably not. It is illegal to harass or harm them or their burrows. And they love eating low-growing vegetation (i.e., grass and flowers).
How about just accepting your neighbor and enjoying it? Having a tortoise in your yard is way cooler than perfect gardens (in my opinion). J

From: Luann, Subject: Spoiled Tortoise, Date: September 10, 2016
If we regularly share misc fruits and veggies with our favorite resident tortoise, will she become too dependent and stop foraging for herself?

Hi Luann,
It really isn’t good to feed people food to a tortoise. Although they may like it, they will not forage for the foods they need to keep them well, growing, and reproductively healthy. It is analogous to us eating junk food.
Besides that, it is illegal to feed gopher tortoises.
I have attached a chapter from a workbook written by a friend of mine that talks about things you can do to make an area more “tortoise friendly”. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. One of the things in there is a list of plants that tortoises eat that you can plant in your yard.

From: Luann, Subject: Re: Spoiled Tortoise - {FOLLOW-UP}, Date: September 12, 2016
Thanks! I didn't know it was illegal to feed them but figured it might be good for them. Thanks so much for your response.

Many people don’t realize that the laws regulating protected wildlife usually prohibit any kind of interference, even things that might be considered beneficial. I know you meant well, but in reality, feeding them is not good.
Thanks for understanding!

From: Adam, Subject: How big are gopher tortoise burrows?, Date: September 10, 2016

Hi Adam,
A burrow is as wide as the tortoise that dug it, so burrows can vary from less than 2 inches wide (hatchlings) to more than 15 inches (old adults). They can also vary greatly in length, from 3 or 4 feet to more than 20, depending on the habitat and depth to the water table.

From: G.B., Subject: Protected in Georgia, Date: September 6, 2016
My name is G.B. and I live in Effingham Co. Ga. on Old Louisville Rd. Over the years I have always heard that Gopher Tortoises are considered an endangered species but never had any fact to back that up. I have 3 burrows on my property that I know of and I'm positive two of them are active with tortoises living in them (I'm not positive about the third as it's kinda off the "beaten path" and I don't see it often). Over the summer I have notice 3 new burrows along the public road that I live on. One of these is high on the shoulder of the public road and well out of harms way, but the other two are actually in the ditch. This is a dirt road and after the hurricane that passed through our area Friday of last week I'm sure the county road crew will soon be coming by to grade the roads and possibly pull the ditches. This is where my concern comes in, especially if these tortoises are protected/considered endangered as the entrances to their burrows would definitely be destroyed and possibly filling them with dirt. It's been on my mind for a few weeks and I wasn't really sure who to contact about this so I did a quick search of the web today and came across your site so I figured I would start here.
Thanks in advance for any input you could provide.

Hi G.B.,
Thanks for writing. The legal status of gopher tortoises is somewhat complicated, so here is a link to the Gopher Tortoise Council’s website that will explain things:
Long story short, yes, they are protected. My suggestion is that you mark the burrows with stakes and flagging (make sure not to block the entrance and don’t drive the stake into the tunnel; off to the side is the best spot). Contact the county and tell them the burrows are marked and need to be avoided when they mow. If you can send them pictures, that is even better because then they can’t ignore you. Mowing is actually a good thing because it keeps the grass in a condition that the tortoises can use for food, but running over the burrows is not ok.
If you have problems or a negative response from the county, contact the GA Department of Natural Resources via their online email: There is also a phone number you can call on that web page.
I hope this is helpful. Contact me if you need more information.

From: Jaice, Subject: Gopher Tortoise {small}, Date: September 2, 2016young gopher tortoise
I found a baby tortoise yesterday in the middle of the road and I looked around and didn't find another tortoise, he is really small. Also he is not eating or drinking, but he has pooped and peed. What should I do?

Please take it back to where you found it and let it go out of harm’s way. Look for some woods or an empty lot close by and release it. From the pictures, it looks like it is several years old (not this year’s or last year’s baby) and it needs to get back to wherever it came from as soon as possible.
Thanks,     Becky

sculcata or gopher ?

From: +12392000533, Subject: Fwd: {Sulcata or Gopher? 2}, Date: September 1, 2016

I am pretty sure it is a gopher tortoise, but I want to get a second opinion. Will get back to you soon.

From: Frank, Subject: Found a baby gopher tortoise, Date: August 31, 2016
Hey I was outside in the backyard and I found a baby gopher tortoise by the exit to my patio my dogs were about to eat it and the landscaper was rolling through with the mower so I grabbed him and am keeping him temporarily till I find out what to do with it, I feel like if I set it free it will die, but I want to take proper care of it, what temperature is it most comfortable at, what kind of habitat should I make for it, just the basics to keep him alive till I can call someone to figure out what to do with it...

The best (and legal) thing to do is release it as close as you can to where you found it, but out of harm’s way. If there is an empty lot or woods near you, or a place where there are tortoise burrows, that would be good. If there is no place like that, take it to a local wildlife rehabilitator. I can help you find one if you send me your state and county location.
Please do this asap; the tortoise needs to be out on its own learning the lay of the land and eating the food that will help it grow properly and be healthy
Thanks,     Becky

From: Christy, Subject: Injured gopher, Date: August 31, 2016injured tortoise
We found this lil feller on our property is there anything we can do for him?

He/she needs to go to a wildlife rehabilitator. If you don’t know of one in your area, please write me back with your state and county location and I will try to find someone for you.
Thanks,     Becky

From: "hittpl91, Subject: New Construction, Date: August 31, 2016
Hi Becky, We are purchasing a lot and building a house for our family in Vero Beach on the Barrier Island and we have a couple ( possibly 3 ) gopher tortoises on it. Could you recommend a Licensed Gopher Tortoise Agent to remove or move them for us. Also could you tell me the approx. price to permit and move and/or remove each tortoise either on the property or to a sanctuary. Thank You, Paul

Hi Paul,
Go to the page linked here ( The answers to all of your questions should be there, and if not, there will be contact numbers for help. I don’t personally know any tortoise agents to recommend, but ones local to your area should be listed on the site. They all have to go through the training to be authorized.

From: +14094574194, Subject: {What kind of turtle?}, Date: August 21, 2016
I was wondering if you could tell from this picture if this is a Gopher Tortoise or an Alligator Snapping Turtle? It is in a sub division in Hickory Creek Texas that is just now being developed. I read that if it is a Snapping Turtle that it is Endangered, is this true? Thank you for your time!

It isn’t a gopher tortoise or an alligator snapping turtle. It is a common snapping turtle. They are not legally protected, but I hope it can be released somewhere nearby that is out of harm’s way.

From: P, Subject: moth balls and gopher tortoises, Date: August 21, 2016
I live in Belleview, Florida and am happy to say I have many gopher tortoise holes in my yard. I try to make my yard wildlife friendly. Recently, a gopher tortoise dug a new home on the fence line between my neighbor and I but the entrance to the hole is in my neighbors yard. I noticed this morning my neighbors have placed moth balls at the entrance of the hole. Is this legal? Is this dangerous for the tortoise or any other animals living in the hole? I'm annoyed as I don't see what the harm is in having them in your yard. Thanks in advance for any advice.
Tricia in Belleview

Tortoises are legally protected by the State and are also a Candidate for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Doing anything to potentially harm or harass them is illegal. Maybe your neighbors just need some education. Below are links to some websites that you might be able to give them, if they are interested.

From: Linda, Subject: Backyard gopher turtle, Date: August 19, 2016
I have a questions with regards to gopher turtle babies.
We moved in our house in 2007 and a large gopher turtle has resided in the backyard ever since quite a distance from the house. A couple months ago on a weekend she dug a hole and laid turtle eggs in our hedging around the house, on the sunny side, then covered up her hole and started back for her den. I have counted off 90 days on the calendar which I believe was yesterday and still no baby turtles. From what I have seen online I'm under the impression it may take up to 100 days depending on the temperature.
My question is this: if gopher baby turtles do hatch, should we move them to a more wooded area or just leave them be? Our property is surrounded by forest and we were originally thinking it would be best to move them further into the forest? Or not?
Your advice will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you.

The best (and legal) thing to do is let them be. When they hatch, it is very important for them to crawl around and get the lay of the land. Picking up and moving them would be very disruptive. Please realize that at least some of them will probably get eaten; hatchling tortoises are an important food source for other animals. If one or a few of them make it, that will be great!
You are right about the variable incubation time. Hopefully, they will come out soon!
If you have other questions, feel free to write back.

From: Joyce, Subject: Gopher Tortoise in back yard, Date: August 18, 2016
We don’t know what is in the big burrow but think it may be a gopher tortoise because we saw one about a month ago in the back yard in the grass. I thought it was a turtle and was on his way to the pond, quite a way down the fairway. We didn’t think much about it until we saw this hugh hole (burrow) in the back under some flower bushes, so we think it is a gopher hole. It worries me because I know snakes get in these holes too. Should we leave it alone or can it be removed? We don’t want to kill it, just relocate it. Don’t know if it is laying eggs...should we just leave it alone?
We put a stick in it and it measured about 5 feet deep, or long. Looks like it may go parallel with the ground. He us hugh, maybe 12 to 14 inches long.
Hope to hear from you.
Thanks,     Joyce, Dothan, Alabama

Hi Joyce,
My preference is that you just let it be. It is true that snakes will use gopher tortoise burrows as dens, but that is more common in natural habitat, not neighborhoods. Tortoises are considered a species of “Highest Conservation Concern” in Alabama and it would probably be difficult to get a relocation permit.
Write back if you have other questions.

From: Jenn, Subject: Dog chewed on gopher tortoise very angry at him, Date: August 16, 2016
Hi, I have had a female gopher tortoise living in my yard for at least 2 months, well that I've noticed her here, and I have 3 dogs. My Boston Terrier is the only one who won't leave her alone. He normally will just bark at her or sniff around her burrow but yesterday when I tried to call him in the house he never came... so when I went outside to find him I saw him with the turtle and he had her flipped on her back!! I was so angry at him and I spanked his butt! I picked the turtle up and checked to see if she was ok. She had two sections of her plaston (i think that's what the under shell is called) where it looked like he was chewing on, there was a tiny tiny dot of blood but didn't look like she was actively bleeding. Then I checked to make sure all her legs were there, I was so afraid he had hurt her, but they were all there. Just hee front two legs where she had them pulled in and covering her face, the front part was kind of chewed off just looked superficial, like the top layer. I touched it to make sure it wasn't bleeding. She also had urinated on herself and as I carried her back to her nest/burrow she urinated again a huge amount. I put her right in front of her burrow and faced her kinda down facing so she could see she was safe. It took a good 15 - 20mins to come out and when she did she turned around and looked around and then eventually she put he legs on the ground and crawled down in her burrow. It looked like maybe her left leg hurt but I'm not sure if turtles feel pain. I read somewhere that turtles have nerve endings in their shell but it's just so they can feel things but the nerve endings are for pain so they don't feel pain thru their shell but do they feel pain on their legs? Do you think she will be ok? I didn't want to take her to the eclinic because I think she has eggs laid down in that burrow. I was going to call fish and wildlife because I'd like for them to save her and the babies but I wasn't sure if they would just come get her and leave the eggs or if they will get the eggs too. I don't want her to have to leave her babies. As of now I am walking my Boston on a leash when he goes outside he will no longer have a chance to hurt her. But I'm afraid for her babies. What do you suggest I do? Also do you think my dog can catch anything or transmit anything to me from eating turtle feces or urine? Please help me! I'm a vet tech but know very little about turtles. I want to make sure she is safe and her babies are safe. I also want to abide by the laws so I'd be very grateful for your advice. Thanks so much!
Sincerely,     Jenn

Hi Jenn,
It is excellent that you are keeping the terrier on a leash. Most dogs will get used to being around turtles/tortoises and eventually ignore them, but Boston terriers apparently just won’t give up.
Keep an eye out for the tortoise and look for signs of infection (blood, puffiness, limping, etc.). The edges of the shell are like our hair and fingernails and can handle some abrasion or cutting without pain, but once you go in very deep, they likely can feel it. From your description of the injuries, she will probably be able to heal without long-term issues. Just watch her.
Most reptiles (except alligators/crocodiles) do not care for their eggs or young. If she were gone, the eggs would still hatch (if they are healthy) and the kids would fend for themselves.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions.

From: Shamarie, Subject: What is this little guy?, Date: August 16, 2016
Hi, could you please tell me what this little guy is - and what is the best thing to do with him. I found him in my garage, you can see some dust and dead grass on him - I have no idea how long he has been in there or what he has been living off of. I live in Apopka, Florida.

It is a hatchling common snapping turtle. Take him to the nearest water (ditch, pond, lake, borrow pit) and release him ASAP. He needs to learn to find food and do what baby turtles do.
Thank you,     Becky

From: Brandon, Subject: Found tortoise shell, Date: August 10, 2016
I'm a high school science teacher in Florida. I recently found a shell of a gopher tortoise that was long dead (there was just the shell and a few bones left).
May I clean up the shell and keep it in my classroom for my students to see? Or is that illegal?
Thank you,     Brandon

Hi Brandon,
It is illegal, but you can apply for a salvage permit with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Look at their website on their goper tortoise page (permits), or call them.

Hi Brandon,
It is illegal, but you can apply for a salvage permit with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Look at their website on their goper tortoise page (permits), or call them.

From: Louie, Subject: Gopher hole covered, Date: August 10, 2016
I say "hello'' to a beautiful tortoise as I go for my run..... he has a big hole cause he's about 12 inches across.
Today I walked by and an excavator plowed over his hole......I know he's down there.
I called Florida Fish and Wildlife they said they would call me back.
I live in Vero Beach
The tortoises hole was on 12th Street, unpaved road about a quarter of a mile off of 90th Avenue.
If he hasn't been crushed how long can you last down there?
I know with in inches where is hole was........
Worried about my friend, Lou

Hi Lou,
Unless he was actually crushed, he will be able to dig out. There's no predicting how long that might take, but this is an active time of year for them. Keep an eye on the spot.
Has FWC called back? Do you know who was using an excavator there or why?

From: Paddy, Subject: How can I be sure a gopher tortoise has deserted a burrow?, Date: August 8, 2016
We had a small gopher tortoise that showed up in our yard almost three years ago. It dug a burrow right beside our patio and about three feet from our house's concrete slab foundation. We haven’t seen it in a long time, and it’s obvious looking at the opening to the burrow that the gopher hasn’t been in or out for a long time. My question is, can I safely remove the hill in front of the burrow and start filling in the burrow? How can I be 100% SURE that the tortoise or some other critter is not in there? Also, is it possible that the gopher has another burrow somewhere else and will eventually come back?

If the opening of the burrow is collapsed and obviously not being kept up, it is probably safe to assume the burrow does not have a tortoise in it. During spring through fall, they go in and out quite frequently. There isn’t really a way to tell about other animals unless you see them. Also, it is very possible that the tortoise might come back to the burrow in the future. They often use different burrows within the home range at different times of year.

From: mstearns, Subject: Baby turtle {what to do with?}, Date: August 7, 2016
Hi i just found a baby turtle from its shell some type of animal has eaten some of the other eggs. I hate to see something get this baby what can I do to help it.

The best thing to do is take it back to near where you found it. Put it somewhere out of the direct sun and under something so it is hidden from predators. It needs to learn how to feed itself.
Thanks,     Becky

From: JJ, Subject: Can you help identify this turtle?, Date: August 2, 2016Help identify
Hi Becky,
Good afternoon! A friend of mine posted a picture helping a turtle back in the water…I am no herpetologist, J and I was wondering if you could help identify it? Lately, it seems that everyone wants to “do the right thing” by helping ALL turtles “back into the water.” I realize that painted turtles and box turtles can, indeed, swim, but most people (including me) are not trained to know the difference between land species of turtles and tortoises. And I know that tortoises cannot swim, and I’ve heard of many good deed doers, whose intentions are to save a creature, have actually done just the opposite out of ignorance.
Can you make an identification from this image? Thank you so much! JJ Waters

Hi JJ,
The turtle in the picture looks like a Florida cooter and it belongs in the water (shell color and shape, yellow stripes on face). The best way to distinguish water turtles from land turtles and tortoises is by the webbing on their feet (like ducks). Box turtles and gopher tortoises have claws and no webbing.
Thanks for educating – we need all of that we can get!

From: Kaye, Sent: Monday, July 25, 2016, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Tunneling towards built in pool - will it cave in or should we try to divert it somehow? St. James City, FL
We have a beautiful gopher tortoise living in our backyard but it has started tunneling really close to our built in pool. Will this cause our pool to collapse if it gets too close? We didn't know if we should try to divert it somehow but we didn't want to disturb the turtle or scare it away. We really love sharing the yard with it. Any thoughts on this?
There is a lump and and indent showing the tunnel going almost toward the bricks where the turtle has dug. It has been here for over a year when we purchased the home. We don't want to disturb him, but don't want the pool to collapse either. Just wasn't sure if it was even an issue.
Thanks so much.     Kaye & Joe

Hi Kaye and Joe,
I have been in the tortoise business for almost 30 years and have never seen or heard of a permanent structure being damaged because of a tortoise burrow. The burrows are typically 12 – 15 feet long and go into the ground at a 45 degree angle, so they get deep pretty fast. They are also only as wide as the tortoise that dug it. There is one entrance/exit, and there might be a branch or two off of the main tunnel, but the burrow is only big enough at the bottom for the tortoise to turn around. Point being, due to the way the burrows are dug, most infrastructure should be safe from damage.

From: Micki, Subject: Gopher tortoise in our yard, Date: July 24, 2016
We came home the other day, to a gopher tortoise hole in our yard. He is right up by her side walk and I really don't want to get rid of him. They have been in the surrounding woods by our house for years now and never bothered us in our yard. Can we charge them rent? Or is there a way to make a sign to say why my lawn looks so bad because a gopher tortoise is living in my front yard?
Our yard isn't the greatest but we have known to try it to make it better. This isn't helping look any better.
Any help on this would be greatly appreciated thank you.
Sincrely!     Micki

How about getting or making a "gopher tortoise crossing sign" and posting it in your yard?

From: Clay, Subject: help for my friends gopher turtle Adrian may have been exposed to miracle grow granuals. runny eyes cough bubbles. Adrian is 10yrs. need pH.number for place of help., Date: July 20, 2016

Where are you located?

From: Katherine, Subject: Gopher turtle {eggs}, Date: July 20, 2016
I bought a home in new port richey fl and I have several gopher turtles and one of them a large female layer her eggs burying them and then I seen them the other day she un buried them is this normal I keep putting the dirt on top of them she's done it twice now thanks a lot Kathy

Hi Kathy,
I have never seen or heard of a tortoise intentionally digging up its own nest. A couple of explanations come to mind. Have you actually seen the tortoise digging it up, or are you finding eggs on top of the ground? Predators such as dogs, cats, or coyotes will dig up tortoise nests. Another option is that the nest site is particularly attractive and another tortoise (or two) is also trying to put its nest there. Could either of those ideas be plausible? I think this is very interesting, so let me know what you know and/or think.
Thanks, Becky

From: DMK1318, Subject: HOA Rules, Date: July 17, 2016
I am blessed with multiple gopher tortoises on my property. New babies are eating away on my lawn, so I stopped putting fertilizer and pesticides down. My HOA sent me a letter and wants me to redo landscaping and add trees and I think that's a bad idea with all the activity. What can I do?

The link below is to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) gopher tortoise page. It explains the legal protection status of tortoises and their habitat (among other things). I doubt that the HOA will require or expect you to break the law. If they do, please write me back and we can ask that someone from the FWC contact them.
Keep me posted! J

From: Rebel Cat, Subject: Broken shell, Date: July 9, 2016broken shell
Hi my name is Valerie, I'm 15, I live in port st. Lucie,fl . My dog he's a Siberian husky and he's a puppy but he went running around in our backyard and found a baby gopher tortoise and I got him out of my dogs mouth and well I found that his shell is cracked. My question is how do I help fix the shell until I can take it to a rescue? Oh and this happen yesterday .

Hi Valerie,
Just saw your email. I have been on vacation to a place without internet access. Did you get the tortoise to a wildlife rehabilitator or rescue?

From: Kimberly, Subject: Tortoise at beach, Date: July 12, 2016
I was at St. Augustine beach last week and watched a gopher tortoise come over the dunes and head out to the water. He walked into the waves, bathed for about 10 minutes, then went on his merry way. I've lived in Florida all my life and have never seen such a thing. Perhaps he was self-treating a parasite or something? I have pics on my phone.

Hi Kimberly,
I have occasionally seen and heard about tortoises swimming in the ocean, but this year it has been especially prevalent. If you don’t mind, would you send pictures? I will put your first initial and last name on them as the photographer. There is a person from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that is keeping records when people report it, so maybe we can figure out why tortoises go into the ocean, and why so much this year.
Thanks, Becky

From: Carly, Subject: Turtle under house, Date: July 5, 2016
We are looking to buy a home that has a massive turtle hole under the foundation, how do were locate him? If he stay he could crack the foundation of the home we are very concerned the hole seems to be at least 8 feet deep
Thank you, Dr. Carly

Hi Carly,
Gopher tortoises often burrow next to structures because the dirt is already soft there. The burrow is very likely 10 – 15 feet deep and goes in at a 45 degree angle. I have never seen or heard of a tortoise burrow causing a foundation to crack.
However, if you decide that you want to have the tortoise relocated, you will need a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (

From: Whitney, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Under Fence, Date: July 2, 2016
Good Evening,
We just purchased a house a few months ago that backs up to a preserve. I was thrilled to see 3 different size gopher tortoises and rabbits in our yard from time to time. However, our puppy has started wandering off when outside and we plan to have children soon, so we decided to fence in the back yard. Everything was great for the few weeks we had a fence until we noticed a tunnel coming from outside the fence into our yard. Its large enough now that our small dog can easily get under the fence, preventing this was the whole point of spending money and time on the fence. It there a way we can encourage the tortoise to burrow elsewhere? My dog is very curious and I don't want him to accidentally hurt the tortoise. I live in Melbourne, FL and know gopher tortoise are protected here. Thank you!


Hi Whitney,
Are there any burrows in your yard?

From: Bill, Subject: should a gopher tortoise be relocated from the ocean to sand dunes, Date: July 1, 2016

Gopher tortoises often get into the ocean. We don’t know for sure why, but parasite removal may be a valid reason. The best (and legal) thing to do is let them be.

From: Chris, Subject: {soft shell}, Date: June 16, 2016
Why is the baby gopher turtortis in my garden have a soft shell

They hatch with soft orange shells which do not get good and hard (and brown) until they are around 5 years old. Many people don’t like to hear this, but gopher tortoise hatchlings are an important food source for lots of other animals. It would be hard for predators to eat them if the shell was hard.

From: Diana, Subject: Question about fires, Date: June 30, 2016
After a fire, what does a gopher tortoise eat? I’m assuming vegetation is sparse for several days. Can it go several days until it eats?
Thanks, Diana

Hi Diana,
The time it takes for the vegetation on the ground to sprout varies with the habitat, rainfall, and season. In the growing season, there will be lots of different plants coming back within a couple of weeks, and often sooner. In the winter, it may take longer, but tortoises typically slow down during that time of year and don’t need to eat as often. Tortoises evolved with fire and are physiologically equipped to survive post-fire conditions.

From: Mary, Subject: What am I going to do?, Date: June 25, 2016
I just seen a gopher turtle in my back yard (Northwest Florida). It has dug a good sized hole. I don't like my yard being torn up, but don't want to hurt the turtle. Will it go away on its own? Or..... do I need to start feeding it

The tortoise may go away, but I cannot promise that. If you start feeding it, the chances of it going away are not good. Besides, feeding it is illegal. My suggestion is that you let it be and see what happens. Having a tortoise in your yard can be a source of enjoyment for you, much more entertaining than grass. J Learn more about gopher tortoises at these links:;
Feel free to write back if you have questions or concerns.

From: Scott, Subject: gopher tortoise {eggs in horse coral}, Date: June 18, 2016
I think we have some tortoise eggs buried in a horse coral area where it is dry, deep sand, very, very hot.
I am concerned that our horses will crush the eggs, or the babies when they hatch.
I know we are not supposed to do anything about the eggs, but if they are endangered does the county/state have anyone who may come get these?

Hi Scott,
If they are tortoise eggs, they will be buried deep enough that the horses won’t crush them. I would start watching around 80 days from the time you think they were laid for signs of hatching so you can move the hatchlings out of harm’s way.
If you want to move the eggs, the State will not do it for you. You will have to hire an authorized agent and it will not be inexpensive.

From: Heather, Subject: Advice on a backyard tortoise, Date: June 18, 2016
This morning a tortoise strolled across our urban Sarasota backyard. It's the first time we've seen him and he's a welcome surprise, but we're concerned because he's been pacing along the fence all day. He seems determined to get to one side of the yard, then turns around and walks back. On the other side of the fence, is a busy road - so it's unlikely his burrow is on the other side. So far, we haven't seem him digging, just pacing. Do you have any insights into this behavior? He's eating and active. We want to make sure he's OK but know we shouldn't interfere. Thank you for any advise you have on our new friend!

Heather from Sarasota, FL

Hi Heather,
Is the tortoise still in your yard? If so, has it dug a burrow?

From: Diana, Subject: gopher tortoise and pocket gophers, Date: June 4, 2016
I am curious about who it is that digs the side rooms within the gopher tortoise burrows which other animals stay in. Do the tortoise dig these as well? Do the animals who live in and share the burrow with the tortoise dig them? A ranger at the park I was at yesterday said pocket gophers dig them however, the article I was reading today said that pocket gopher are solitary creatures so I didn’t think they’d really want to be sharing a tortoise burrow. Please clarify for me. Thanks.
Diana, Seminole County, FL

Pocket gopher burrows and gopher tortoise burrows are very different. Pocket gophers dig very long, but shallow tunnels; they like to eat the roots of plants so they don’t need to go very deep. Gopher tortoises dig shorter burrows, but they go in at a 45 degree angle and get pretty deep quickly. Pocket gophers have been documented using tortoise burrows, but that was probably as a quick means of protection from a predator, fire, or bad weather.

From: Diana, Subject: gopher tortoise burrowing, Date: June 4, 2016
I have a few questions:
1) Approximately, how many feet can a tortoise dig during a day? (Is a burrow completed in one day or over several days?)
2) Does a tortoise dig multiple burrows at the same time, or does it complete one at a time?
3) Within one burrow, I understand several animals can take cover during fires, storms, etc. When these emergencies do not exist, do they still co-habitate? Aren’t some of them predator/prey animals? I mean, could you have a snake and a FL mouse living in the same burrow?
Thanks. Diana, Seminole County, FL

Hi Diana,
1. The number of feet a tortoise can dig and how long it takes to dig a burrow mostly depends on the type of soil/sand/dirt. Average time to dig an entire burrow is a couple of days.
2. As far as I have ever seen, only one at a time. They will dig several burrows within the home range over time.
3. Burrows are home to many different, and not always compatible, commensal animals. I have seen snakes go from burrow to burrow looking for food. Burrows can be used for protection, but they can also be a smorgasbord for predators.
I hope this is helpful. Feel free to write back if you have other questions.

From: michael, Subject: Gopher Turtle under house, Date: June 9, 2016
I have a Gopher Tortoise that has dug a hole under the front foundation of my house. The houses in Florida are built on slabs and the borrow is jeopardizing the area above the it. I am afraid it will cause that portion of the foundation to collapse. Which may cause the front of the house to collapse. What can be done.

I often get questions when a tortoise has dug next to/under a foundation or other slab. Tortoises like to dig where the dirt has already been disturbed. The burrow will probably extend 12 – 15 ft and go in at a 45o angle, so it is pretty deep quickly. Also, the diameter of the burrow tunnel will be the size of the tortoise, which is not very large. I have never had anyone tell me, or seen myself, a collapsed foundation due to a tortoise digging.
As far as doing anything, if you decide the tortoise needs to go, you can apply for an on-line permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (
Feel free to write back if you need more information.

From: Mercedes, Subject: Baby Gopher Turtle, Date: June 3, 2016baby gopher tortoise
Found this baby on our carport yesterday (Thursday). Put some lettuce near hoping it would eat (put lettuce out before I read that I shouldn't =} ).
By this morning (Friday), it had moved about 15' to the edge of the house.He's been pretty much in the same spot all day.
I've read on different pages about relocation......I'm sure it came out of our yard.
Should we move it back into the yard......which is primarily field & orange groves.
Any help is greatly appreciated.

Just place it in your yard, preferably in a burrow or under some vegetation so it’s not visible to predators. Thanks!

From: Bertie, Date: June 2, 2016, Subject: How long does it take for a tortoise to dig it's burrow

Two to three days, depending on the dirt or sand and the depth to the water table or soil hard pan.

From: Nancy, Subject: Gopher Tortoise seems to have abandoned the burrow, Date: May 30, 2016
Hi Becky – we live in Port Orange and have several tortoises of varying ages living on our property. We love having these creatures here. We have one very large tortoise, we estimate to be about 25 – 30 years old (he has lived here since about 1985 or there abouts). We also have one small female that we estimate is about two years old; we have watched her grow and establish her burrow near the edge of our house. About two weeks ago we observed the large male visit the small tortoises burrow, sticking his head well into the opening of the burrow and doing some minor digging with his front legs. He visited the burrow at least two or three times that we saw. The little tortoise stood her ground at the opening of the burrow. Could you tell us what you think this behavior is all about? Additionally, now about two weeks later we see no signs of the little tortoise at her burrow. Up till then we observed her every day, several times a day at her burrow either excavating, basking in the sun, or eating. Could she have abandoned her burrow because she felt threatened by the very large male tortoise? We love all our tortoises and have grown quite fond of them, and now feel anxious about what may have happened to her. Except for observing and being careful cutting grass around their burrows, we try not to interfere or impact them in anyway. Any thoughts you have would be very welcomed. Thank you for your time. Nancy

Hi Nancy,
Sounds like you have a great situation, and a wonderful attitude! If you know that one of the tortoises is a male and the other is a female, what you observed was probably his attempt to entice her to mate. Tortoises typically have several burrows in their home ranges, so if he was bugging her and she was not receptive, she might be hiding out somewhere else. Once mating season is over, she may be back. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Such is tortoise life! J Just keep your eyes open.

From: 3214467345, Subject: {new nest in yard}, Date: May 30, 2016
Have a big area where gopher's nest and lay their egss every year next to my house. Last couple weeks one has dug a nest which goes under my fence and into my yard; not sure what to do! Should someone come to try to relocate it? We are trying to protect it from my dog digging up the nest which continues into my yard, we have it blocked off right now to protect it and don't know if eggs were layer yet.

Can you send me some pictures?       Becky

From: 5042754326, Subject: {Will I disturb it?}, Date: May 29, 2016 burrow
i have been camping out and cleared some brush and found a tortise burrow in the close area i saw it one morning
dident bother it i was wondering of it would be bpthered by me being close to its burrow?I would hate to have bothered it
I have measured one of six holes it has dug and seems to be a 13 inch entrance the holes are in a thicket around35 ft in diamiter
I dident touch anything and saw him once his burrow opening is around 13 inches and it has around 6 burrows in a 35 to 40 ft area.i have seen others in the area as well
I have only seen it once im going to try and get a picture of it but wont bother it in any facinated with him
I am a good 25 ft away from them will. My presence bother him. Her?

The best thing you can do is not disturb the area, and especially the burrows. Legally, you are supposed to stay at least 25 feet away from a burrow.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions or concerns.

From: Charles, Subject: Injured gopher tortoise, Date: May 21, 2016
We have many gopher tortoises on our 10 acre property in Dade City.
We have found one that is 5 inches long and is not using his back feet at all. He can move along pretty well with only his front feet but we keep finding him outside his hole on his back. I am afraid he will not survive his injury.
What should we do?
Thank you,       Bonnie

Hi Bonnie,
If you still have the tortoise or can get it, I would take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. If you can’t find one, write me back.

From: Stephanie, Subject: Gopher Tortoise isn't moving, Date: May 22, 2016
We have several active boroughs on our property. We don't disturb them and the gopher tortoises roam around freely. The past couple of years, we have even seen hatchlings!
This morning however, we noticed something very odd. One of them is in a shady spot under a tree and isn't moving. All feet and head are out. It hasn't moved for at least 6 hours. We fear it may be dead. We know they've been here much longer than us. This may be the one that has been behaving a little odd as of late. One of them was actually giving chase to my husband last week as he was doing yardwork. I'm unsure if it was this one or not.
I don't know what to do. We have grown quite attached. They have become part of our family. What should we do?
We live in southeast Georgia in Tattnall County.
Thank you for your advice in advance,

Is the tortoise still there?

From: Dave, Subject: Turtle { haven't seen it}, Date: May 22, 2016
Hi I have a question; I have a gopher tortoise in my back yard between my fence and my neibors fence it use to come out everyday and graze but lately I have'nt seen it in a week or so I just wonderd what happend to it ?

That is very hard to say. It could have moved to another burrow; they typically have several within their home range. It may stay gone for a while and then return later in the year. Hopefully, nothing bad happened and it will eventually come back.

From: Kellie, Subject: Sir Newton the Wondering Gopher Turtle, Date: May 24, 2016
I am so grateful for your site. Recently a Gopher Turtle appeared in our back yard. I was told years ago several lives here. A neighbor came by and said if the city came by and saw him in my back yard I would get in trouble. I thought they were protected and if this is where he wants to be it is his legal right right? The yard is huge and fenced in but he can come and go as he pleases. We found a burrow under our trailer in the back yard. My husband is concerned we just want to live peacefully with all Beings. How should we respond to the neighbor? Thanks for your help. Don't really care for nosey bullies.

As long as you are not keeping the tortoise from coming and going whenever he wants, you are completely legal. Don’t feed or water him, etc., or interfere with movements; you have to just let him be.
I have attached a book chapter written by a friend of mine that talks about having tortoises in your yard. It is copyrighted material, so use if for your own education only, please. I think it will have information you will enjoy.
Feel free to write back if you have questions.

From: Diana, Subject: Sponsor a Tortoise Program, Date: May 25, 2016
Good Afternoon,
I have an old brochure from “The Friends of the Enchanted Forest, Inc” in which they describe Sponsor a Tortoise Program. I would like to start a similar program here at Savannas Preserve State Park (St. Lucie and Martin Counties). I would like our young scientists and parents to be able to look for Gopher Tortoises and use eyes only. Have other parks marked their tortoises in a safe way so they can be identified? Can a number be put on the shell that is safe and large enough to see without touching the animal? Any info would be greatly appreciated.
Best,       Dee

Hi Dee,
I suggest you contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). They would have to permit the program, so you might as well start there. . You can also look at the FWC gopher tortoise page for more information and ideas.
Let me know if you need anything else.

From: Christy, Subject: I put a tortoise in the lake on accident, Date: May 24, 2016
Hello, Last night I may have mistaken a tortoise for a turtle and put it in the lake.
I am afraid I may have killed it instead of rescuing it from the road.
Will a tortoise be able to get out of the lake by itself?
Really upset about it today.
Thank you,       Christy

Hi Christy,
I can’t promise you that the tortoise got out of the lake, but tortoises can swim short distances. I have seen them cross ditches and even intentionally go out into the ocean.
It was an honest mistake and he probably was fine, so be good to yourself!

in closet

From: kit, Subject: Tortise {in closet}, Date: May 17, 2016
He showed up today at my front door. I saw him laying by boots. Next time he was wedged in by boots.
Should I leave him be or pull him out and face him out in front of door.
Thank you,

Hi Kit,
Well, that is interesting and I am not sure what to tell you. Are there any burrows around, or habitat where there might be burrows? That behavior makes me think it is lost. You could try sending it on its way, but if there is nowhere to go, it will probably get hit by a car. If you don’t think there is a home for it around there somewhere, I would take it to a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. If you decide to do that and don’t know where to go, write me back with your state and county.

From: Dominic, Subject: Gopher baby temp question, Date: May 15, 2016
What is the temp range for a baby gopher tortoise to survive/thrive? Mainly concerned about the low end, not over heating. Is a 35F evening going to kill it? Does it need a burrow if it has a hide box and isn't digging?Does it need a warm belly spot to digest or will laying in the dirt and grass in the sun give it enough heat?
State is CA. Orange County.

Gopher tortoises don’t live in California; they are in the southeast U.S. What you have must be a desert tortoise. I suggest you contact someone with the Desert Tortoise Council and see what they think. At the top of their page is a “contact us” button; on that page there is a link to Frequently Asked Questions and the opportunity to email people.

From: Tonya, Subject: {Under our car}, Date: May 15, 2016
Dear Becky,
We have noticed a golpher turtle in our yard, the problem is where it is. There is no grass or dirt, it is on our paved driveway and it is under my car, it has come out from under the car just a few times and it has only gone over to the dirt area once then it came right back to my car. We have been trying to leave it alone, but we are keeping a close eye on it. I am really starting to worry about it, I know this is not normal behavior and I really don't want anything to happen to this little turtle, could you please help me figure out what to do?
Sincerely,       Tonya

Hi Tonya,
Does it have a burrow under the car, or does it just sit on top of the pavement?

From: Lesley, Subject: eggs in my old compost pile!, Date: May 14, 2016
Hi i have 5 or six I didn’t dig to find more gopher tortoise eggs in my old compost pile I would like to protect them from predators what do you suggest? an fence or wire cage over the , around the area?
thankyou for replying its right on the edge of the woods so there are all kinds of varmints that would love to eat them. Lesley PS. Im down in Arcadia Florida

Hi Lesley,
Putting a fence around the compost pile might be helpful. Good luck!

From: Ray, Subject: Strange behavior, Date: May 14, 2016
We live in the country in Taylor co, Ga.There are many turtles around us including one burrow that has been here since we moved in 1987. yesterday we witnessed a turtle about 8 inches wide do towards a shed like he would crawl under it but he stopped at the building as he was too big to go under. Rather than dig he did nothing! We imagine. All sorts of reasons why he would not move. In the morning he was still there we tried all morning to locate some organization for help but was unsuccessful. After 18 hours he left. We figured the sun on him made him move. We were not here when he left,       Ray &Jeri

That does sound a bit strange. The only thing I can imagine is that he didn’t have a burrow to use (maybe somebody bigger kicked him out). He will eventually find a new place to dig. This time of year, not having a burrow isn’t critical for survival.
Thanks for telling me. I always find unusual things like this very interesting.

From: brooks75md, Subject: Gopher Tortoise {busy neighborhood} FOLLOW UP, Date: May 14, 2016
Hi Becky -
Yesterday I mailed you but failed to include my county. I am in Pasco county. In my backyard we have what I'm thinking is a gopher tortoise. We live in a pretty confined part of the neighborhood. I can't be certain but this might be the one we saw digging last year. This year (if it's the same) she was walking along my fence but turned around after my dog alerted me that it was in my yard. She then turned around and sat in a corner around a small cable housing. (The green ones that stick out of the ground) After a night she hasn't moved and now I'm a little concerned. Hope to hear back from you. I'm not certain how to attach a picture. But I'm open to communication with you experts.
Best Regards-
Concerned Turtle Guy in Port Richey

I just responded to your first email, but this situation sounds a little different than what I was imagining. If the tortoise is still sitting outside (i.e. not in a burrow) after a couple of days, or sits through a rain storm, I would take her to a wildlife rehabilitation facility. If you need help finding one in your area, write me back.

From: brooks75md, Subject: Gopher Tortoises {busy neighborhood}, Date: May 13, 2016
Hello. We live in the middle of a busy neighborhood in Port Richey. Quite away from any water. We do however have this one large turtle returning every year, this year twice to dig a deep hole in our yard and then POOF he's gone. Should I be concerned for this great creature of our earth? I have pictures but can't attach. After researching I am quite sure it is a gopher tortoise.
Best regards -       Howard.
P.S. I'm originally from Maryland where our University mascot is a turtle. Not this kind though. Terrapin to be exact.
Go Terps!

Hi Howard,
It’s really difficult for me to say what kind of turtle you might have without pictures. Gopher tortoises typically dig a burrow to live in and lay their eggs in a hole in the sand pile in front of the burrow. However, there are exceptions. Regardless, I wouldn’t worry about the turtle if it keeps returning. Most turtles and tortoises have a home range and gopher tortoises dig several burrows within that range. Your yard might be the maternity ward.
I am familiar with the Terps. Watched them play at the Citrus Bowl (it was called the Tangerine Bowl then) against the University of Tennessee (my hometown team). Go Vols! J

From: wendy, Subject: Gopher Turtle Nest {eggs}, Date: May 6, 2016
Hello,We live in Englewood Florida. There are two Gopher Turtle nests on our property, and two active and large turtles. One of the turtles dug a nest and laid several eggs. The next morning one egg was missing. Should we somehow protect the nest from predators?
Thank you!       Wendy

Hi Wendy,
It is tortoise nesting season. However, if she put the eggs on top of the ground where you could see them instead of digging a hole and burying them, the eggs would not hatch anyway. They might have been old eggs she has been carrying around since last year that she needed to shed.
My suggestion is to leave them alone. Somebody will eat them and she will probably dig a proper nest and lay eggs that will hatch sometime this season.      Becky

From: Charles, Subject: will the state pay me?, Date: April 27, 2016
Hi, I live in north florida. I have a hay farm and until two years ago I didn’t have any gopher turtles on my property. Now they are everywhere messing up my hay fields with their dens. Someone told me they state would pay you if they are on your property like that, thought you might know. Thank you

Wat you are referring to is called a gopher tortoise recipient site. Go to, click “permits” on the left-hand column, and then click “recipient site” on that left-hand column. It will have the information you are looking for, or will tell you where to find it.
Write me back if you have more questions.

From: Rebekah, Subject: Possible Gopher Tortoise Moved In?, Date: April 18, 2016
hole Hi! I moved into my home a year ago (Lake County) and have never noticed any gopher tortoise activity on my property, but it looks like one may have moved in or at least started a burrow within the past week and a half. It's been in the high 70s and 80s, but I haven't seen any activity at all. I've attached 2 pictures from when I first noticed on the 13th and one from today as well. I haven't seen any more tracks like were visible in the first image.
I would be happy to share my property with a gopher tortoise, but if by chance my burrow isn't in use, I've been planning to fence my yard for my dogs so I'd rather get a jump on this as my property line is about 10' from the entrance, if I can.
What's the best way to monitor activity so I can be absolutely certain and make the best decision for my possible new neighbor AND my dogs?
Thanks!!       Rebekah

Hi Rebekah,
That looks like an armadillo burrow to me.
Feel free to write back if you need more information.

From: Debra christon, Subject: {haven't seen him in 6 months}, Date: April 11, 2016
Becky I have had a male gopher in my yard for years,at times,je leaves for a couple of months ,but always returns. I haven't seen him in 6 months or better.Now there is a small female on his old burrow,but she never comes out.I wonder why.I used to watch him graze everyday.He even liked bread.Je come up to me and I threw bread at him,he loved it.I hope no one killed him,he was very big.Deb

Hi Deb,
Tortoises often move around to different burrows within their home range. The male may have a “winter burrow” that he uses and will come back to your yard when the weather warms up. Tortoises are also less active in the winter; this has as much to do with light as it does with temperature. That might be why the female has not been coming out as frequently as you expect.
Please do not feed them bread, or anything else. They need to eat the vegetation that is in your yard in order to be healthy. Besides, feeding them is illegal. I have attached a chapter from a workbook written by a friend of mine that suggests things that can be done to improve your yard for tortoises. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.
Hopefully, both of the tortoises are ok and will be grazing in your yard soon.
Thank you,       Becky

From: aaron, Subject: Gopher tortoise {hanging out in corner}, Date: March 20, 2016
Good morning,
Yesterday I came home from work and there was a gopher tortoise in the corner of my front door and the wall of the townhouse next door. Based on its size i think its probably 8 to 10 years old. I moved it away from the door to the landscaping. I went out the door about an hour later and the it was back in the corner. I moved it further down the landscaping. It moved back again. Well this morning I got up and came down stairs and sure enough it's still in the corner. It's not trying to burrow as far as I can tell but it doesn't seem to be in any hurry to get out of that corner either. Is there something I should do, or will this matter sort itself?
Thank you,

Hi Aaron,
Is the tortoise still hanging out around your door?

From: Karry, Subject: GT hasn't moved, Date: March 19, 2016
I have a turtle who hasnt moved from last night. Im afraid he may be sick or something. Who do we call. We lve in Mims.

Do you still have the turtle? If so, the best place to take it is the Florida Wildlife Hospital, 4560 US-1, Melbourne, FL 32935. It is about a mile south of Pineda Causeway on the west side of US 1.

From: Steve, Subject: Gopher tortoise? {in water}, Date: March 14, 2016
I just watched a turtle about the size of a gopher tortoise walk about 50 yards across a parking lot and then into a pond, where he seemed quite comfortable. Do gopher tortoise ever go in the water? Or was this just a turtle? He may have been travelling between a nearby creek and the pond. I've seen true gopher tortoise, but I'm not familiar enough with them to identify what I saw today as a tortoise.
This was in Clearwater, FL.       Steve

Hi Steve,
Gopher tortoises will sit in the water, and even go into the ocean for a swim, so it’s not impossible to believe you saw a tortoise. However, it is more likely it was one of our freshwater turtle species. Maybe if you Google Florida turtles, you will be able to recognize what you saw. If you figure it out, let me know.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Jan, Subject: Burrow, Date: March 8, 2016
How does a GT know which burrow belongs to him? Smell?

Gopher tortoises probably use a variety of cues to help them find their burrows. They have a keen sense of smell and can also see very well. Tortoises might also “feel” the contours of the land with their plastron (bottom shell) as they travel.
Just as a side note, tortoises definitely have some burrows that they use more frequently than others. However, they use many burrows within their home range, and they are not shy about diving into any burrow available if need be.

From: Jessica, Subject: Sick Gopher Tortoise?, Date: March 2, 2016
I once saw a gopher tortoise struggling in a muddy marsh area and stuck up against a preserve fence. Would the gopher tortoise do this on purpose because it is sick and dying?

I can’t say for sure, but it was probably just stuck.

From: Liza, Subject: Keystone Species, Date: February 28, 2016
I am trying to find a breakdown of how many different species the burrow of a Gopher Tortoise supports. For example how many different snakes, mice, birds, etc. I don't need every name just a number for each group. I am working on an interactive project for Ichetucknee Springs State Park. I would appreciate any information.
Warm Regards,       Liza

I have attached a very abbreviated list from a book by Pat and Ray Ashton, “The Gopher Tortoise, A Life History”. That is all I have “hard copy”. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. There are likely other things available online.

From: Teri, Subject: turtle egg hatching, Date: February 15, 2016
On November 12, 2015, we observed a gopher turtle lay 6 eggs by our fence…we caged a large area to keep out predators. We have since removed the caging when it came close to the 90 days…still no sign of hatching. Our questions are these…Is it possible, since it was a late season laying of eggs, that perhaps they did not survive? Should we do anything to protect or assist them out of the buried area? Do they come out any distance from the original nest area? Any assistance, you mat offer will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

November is way outside the normal nesting time. It is very unlikely that the eggs were ever viable. Sometimes when a female is carrying unfertilized eggs or eggs that simply can’t hatch, she will shed them to make room for next year’s clutch.

From: Susan, Subject: Re: Runny nose gopher tortoise, Date: February 14, 2016 at 4:55:15 PM EST
Each day I walk my property to check on the tortoises, 10 that I am aware of, because We have foxes, raccoons bobcats and coyotes that roam thru the property. There is a large male tortoise that has been here for at least 2 years . 3days ago I noticed he had a runny nose. We live in palm beach county so we have had a couple of 45 degree nights recently so I understand that the tortoises are a bit lethargic, but this fella is always spunky but that day he seemed groggy and his nose was runny and around his mouth. There next day he was at the big female's burrow and he was mating her. Do I need to be concerned about the runny nose? I do not want to "lose" him but I also do not want him infecting the others. (2 years ago we had one that looked sick so we took it to Busch wildlife which is near us and it was euthanized because it had URDT. I just want to do the right thing for our tortoise population. Thanks for your time.

Hi Susan,
Many things can cause a tortoise to have a runny nose, and they are often not fatal. I would not take a tortoise out of the population unless it is very lethargic during nice weather, looks emaciated, or stays outside of its burrow during bad weather or overnight. Even testing positive for URTD does not mean that the tortoise will infect others or die.
I suggest you just keep an eye on things for now.       Becky

From: Jaybird Blue, Subject: Dens, Date: January 26, 2016
I am lucky to have many dens on my 5 acres. However recently I have seen it looks like that they are filling the dens in themselves from the inside and dirt is closing off the entrance. I live in Citrus County FL and we have had 2 mild freezes so far. I saw this in September also so am not thinking it is due to the weather. Is someone coming and doing this or is it normal for them?

The burrows are probably looking inactive because the tortoises are not going in and out as much as they do in the warmer seasons. Activity has as much to do with day length as it does with temperature. Also, each tortoise will use more than just one burrow; males on Kennedy Space Center averaged using 15 different burrows a year and females averaged 9. Point being, if they are not moving around as much, some of the burrows in their home range will not be used at all and may start to close in. I imagine that when activity picks back up in the spring, the burrows will start looking active again.
All that being said, I could be wrong! J Look around the closed-in burrows for animal tracks or digging. Take some pictures and send them to me if you see that.

From: 7275054275, Subject: {found two shells}, Date: January 11, 2016
Hi i live in New port richey fl and i have a really big retention pond behind my home. We normally see big turtles out sunbathing. However yesterday while cleaning up and mowing yard my son came across 2 small size turtle shells. It appears that something has eaten the turtles. Just curious what could it be?

It’s hard to say what ate them because there are many possibilities. Dogs, cats, raccoons, coyotes, crows, and wading birds such as herons and ibises are all able and happy to eat small turtles. If you can send some pictures, I might be able to narrow it down.

From: Brian, Subject: Gopher tortoises on a construction site, Date: January 10, 2016
If a gopher tortoise burrow is found on a construction site, can construction activity still occur as long as the activity is more than 25 feet from the burrow? I would assume they would eventually need a permit to complete the project, but can they continue work on site away from the burrows until they get a permit?

Follow up eMail: My location is Polk County, Florida.

If the site is going to be developed, the developer will need a relocation permit. For the short-term, no activity can take place within a 25 ft. radius of the burrow. See for more specific information.

From: dan, Subject: Home with tortoise, Date: January 7, 2016
Hi Becky,
I just found a property that I want to buy in Englewood fl. There is a large burrow near the back of our property. There is a 20 ft area of brush next to it that is partially on our property and partially on the neighbors. I have no problem with the turtle but hate the overgrown brush. I would like to cut down the brush and preferably put up a fence so i don't have to see the brush past the property line. I had heard that I am not allowed to put up a fence as you have suggested is okay to other posters. Do you have any links that document what is and isn't allowed?

The link below is to the official Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines. On page 3, there is a discussion about not disturbing a 25-foot radius around a tortoise burrow. If you are just cutting down or trimming vegetation (as opposed to pulling it out of the ground), that is fine. If you want to put up a fence, avoid putting posts into the ground within 25 ft. of the burrow. You might also leave a cleared spot underneath the fence near the burrow for the tortoise to pass through. If the tortoise wants to go back and forth between properties, it will eventually dig a pass itself.
Feel free to write back if you have more questions, or contact your regional tortoise biologist at

From: John, Subject: Replacing re-habbed gopher tortoise, Date: January 5, 2016
We recently encountered a very small gopher tortoise in our back yard in Sarasota County. The tortoise was against a chain link fence in a stand of ferns surrounded by pine needle duff. It could not move its hind legs. We contacted a local wildlife rescue operation, and took them the tortoise. This happened two weeks ago. It was their opinion the tortoise was severely constipated. I was told that if the tortoise was rehabilitated, it would be returned to our yard. I contacted them again today and was told the tortoise was doing well, and would be returned in a few days.
We have over 4 acres, and there are ten or more tortoises in our yard. I am watching 4 that just hatched in August, and there are several in the yard that are palm-sized, and several more that are full-grown adults. The "constipated" tortoise is the size of the August hatchlings, but was found far from the other 4, so I think it might be from a separate clutch.
I am concerned about where exactly to put the tortoise once it is returned. The area where we found it did not look to be very tortoise-friendly, as it was covered with pine needles, and I have not seen any tortoises eating the ferns. I understand it should be placed in mid-morning or mid-afternoon, out of direct sunlight, and not in the rain, preferably under some vegetation or in/near a burrow. I know of several small burrows that seem to be in and out of use. If the tortoise is placed in or near one of the burrows, could it cause trouble with other tortoises that may use the burrow? Please advise best course. Thank you for your time. John.

Hi John,
I would take it to a burrow that is close to where you found it. Even if it is from a different clutch, the area is small enough that all of the tortoises likely encounter each other over time. There should be no territorial issues, especially for the youngsters.
Hopefully, when you get it back, all legs will be functional and all will be well.
Thanks for caring!       Becky



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