Gopher Tortoise -- "Ask an Expert" -- 2014

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Date: December 16, 2014, From: savanna, Subject: {my turtle}Box turtle
Hey this is me here is the front of my turtle
It is a box turtle. They are not legally protected, but you should still return it to where you found it. Turtles are hard to keep healthy in captivity.
Thanks,       Becky

Subject: Captive gopher {on display}, From: Wendy, Date: December 15, 2014
Recently I saw a gopher in captivity on "display". The living conditions are very poor. Full size gopher in an area approximately 2'x4' with an upper level. All sand. There was some food and water.
This gopher obviously has never felt the sun, or the ground underneath her. How can we, by law, get her out of there and with a rehabber?
In a separate display, there is an eastern box turtle with a severely overgrown beak.
Please help me.
Thank you,       Wendy

That is very disturbing. Please contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: If you suspect a fish, wildlife, boating, or environmental law violation, report it to the FWC's Wildlife Alert Reward Program: 888-404-FWCC (3922). You can remain anonymous if you choose.
Write back if you have questions. Thanks for caring and for acting.

From: Silvrfaux, Date: December 15, 2014, Subject: Possible sick gopher tortoise
Hi Becky,
As you may remember, I monitor gopher tortoises in a section of the Duke Energy Utility Easement between utility poles #49, 50, 51.
Overgrowth of post-herbicide spraying has prevented me from accessing the remaining poles in the Easement. Based on this past summer, We are down to 5 now, 1 immature that I rescued as a hatchling, 2 mature males, 2 mature/immature females.
Near noon today, monitoring burrows, I located one of the mature males atop his burrow.
He appears weak, moving slowly, dis-oriented, & refusing fruit/vegetable.
More ominously, he is bubbling at his nose/burbed saliva at the mouth. I fear pneumonia or the URTD. In early December, we experienced 7' rainfall event followed by cold weather.
We have a phone call into a local vet who manages reptiles, birds & rabbits.
The g.t. is currently in a plastic toddler pool in the sun with straw.
Any advice deeply appreciated.
Thanks,       Marsha

If you still have this tortoise and have not been able to find care for it, please write me back. Actually, please write me back anyway and let me know what is going on with it.
Thanks,       Becky

Date: December 7, 2014 at 8:58:36 PM EST
Subject: Baby Gopher Tortoise {?}
From: Ashley Pendell <>

Hello, My boyfriend found a baby Tortoise walking down the sidewalk eating some grass so he brought it home. We decided to keep her as a pet. We took her to a reptile store and were told she is most likely an Arizona Desert Tortoise, but I had my doubts and with a ton of researching im almost certain she is a Gopher Tortoise. Madchen is her name, it stands for "Little Girl" in german and my family loves her tremendously. We are located in Phoenix Arizona, nowhere near her natural habitat. My question. Are we allowed to keep her. We can not put her back were we found her as she would be lunch to the neighborhood cats and my family would be heartbroken if we had to give her up. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place, please help.
The Griffin Family Phoenix, Arizona

Dear Griffins,
I have to agree with the pet store person that it is a desert tortoise. Gopher tortoises and desert tortoises are very difficult to tell apart, especially when they are so small. It makes a whole lot more sense that a desert tortoise would be wandering around Phoenix than a gopher tortoise. Below is a link to an Arizona Game and Fish website that can give you the information you need to legally adopt your little girl. Or boy – that’s another thing that you can’t distinguish until they grow up some. J
Please let me know if you need more information. Thank you for rescuing the baby and giving it a good home.
M. Rebecca Bolt

Date: December 4, 2014, From: cassandra, Subject: Help saving gopher from dogs
I have 4 areas on the perimeter of my fence where gophers have dug burrows. My dogs go crazy and wants to catch and kill them so much that I can't let them out without supervision because they will sit and wait for them or dig at the burrows to get to them. Between the tortoises and the dogs I have huge gaping holes under my fence that my dogs now can escape the yard from. Any ideas on how to protect the tortoises from my dogs and protect my dogs from escaping and getting killed.

Hi Roz,
Have had this problem myself before, and it is not an easy fix. If you will answer some questions, I will try to help. What kinds of dogs and how many? How long have the dogs and tortoises been together (i.e., did you or the tortoises recently move in)? Are the openings to the burrows inside or outside your fence, and what is in the nearby areas? If you could email me some pictures, that would be helpful, too.
Thanks,       Becky

Subject: Baby injured, From: Sutra, Date: December 1, 2014
Our puppy brought us an injured baby gopher tortoise and likely injured it. What do we do? He's in a cardboard box with a damp paper towel. We put some grass in with him. We are near Dunnellon. It's front shell is damaged and there is some bloody flesh. He's moving and alert. No one is returning our calls.

Look at the website below. It is for a wildlife rehabilitator in Crystal River, which I think is fairly close to you. Call them first because they may have someone nearby or they may have a pick-up service. If you end up giving them the tortoise, please try to make a donation; that is how they survive and they do a great service.
If this doesn’t work, write me back.

Date: December 1, 2014, Subject: {What should I do with it?}From: Lisa
I found a gopher tortoise was wondering what I should do with it?

Please return the tortoise back to where you got it as soon as possible. Place it out of harm’s way, in a burrow or underneath some vegetation cover. Do it during the warm part of the day so it has time to find shelter before it gets too chilly overnight.
If you can’t do this, please write me back.

From: Jose, Subject: Gopher on an apartment, Date: November 30, 2014
I have a neighbor who has a gopher on his apartment for around two years. They have them well fed and clean. They have a small corral about 40x40 inches. I told them that an endangered species and they need to contact the authorities. There's English is not the best so they ask me for the favor.
What's the best process to return this animal to the nature or the authorities?
They don't want to get in trouble with the authorities or harm the animal releasing in a field without the proper procedure.
Thanks for any information you can provide.
From Jose

Thank you for offering to help. The tortoise should not be released into the wild. I suggest they take it to a wildlife rehabilitator in the area. If you need help finding one, email me with your state and county information.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Garrett, Date: November 29, 2014, Subject: Baby gopher turtle {too cold?}

Baby gopher turtleis a baby gopher turtle in our back yard and it seems to have just hatched not to long ago. My concern is, is it normal for a baby so young to be outside its burrow in 50°f? I'm concerned for his safety that he will be to cold. Should I be concerned? Please answer quickly because I would like to make sure he can make it back to his burrow before nightfall, if not I do know of a rehabilitation center where I have taken a baby raccoon that lost its mommy by a car.

If you still have the tortoise, please take it to the wildlife rehabilitator.
Thank you,       Becky

Date: November 23, 2014, Subject: Marginal tortoise and hybrid box turtle, From: Dalton
Can you put a baby marginal tortoise with a baby hybrid box turtle together in the same 30"x42" terrarium?

These animals will eventually be very different in size and habitat requirements. I have attached some care sheet websites for your information. Neither of them should be kept full-time in a terrarium; they need to be outside when the weather is appropriate.
Write me back if you have more questions.       Becky

Date: November 22, 2014, Subject: Gopher Tortoise - Hunkering down for the winter?, From: Erich
Hi Becky -
We have a gopher tortoise that took up residency in our backyard about 6 months ago. He dug a nice deep tunnel underneath our daughter's swingset area (see attached photo) - and every now and then we see him cruising around the backyard.
I haven't checked up on him in the past week or two - but today noticed that he's sealed up the entrance to the burrow.
Given that it's getting a little colder here in Central Florida (that's where we live) - what do you think is going on? Hunkering down for the winter? Maybe eggs?

Gopher tortoises won’t close up a burrow intentionally, but the burrow will close in if it is not being used consistently. The tortoise may be inside or out. Sometimes they will move to a different area in response to seasonal changes, or it could be staying in the burrow just because it is chilly and rainy out (I’m in central Florida, too. It’s been kind of yucky!). Hopefully, it will reopen the burrow when the weather gets suitable again.

Date: November 22, 2014, Subject: Home for a gopher tortoise, From: Dango
I rescued a baby (about 1 1/2" dia) G T from certain death. Fed it some fresh collard greens, peas, and chopped green beans. Let it roam in my greenery bed inside an enclosed porch. Then after a few days it completely vanished until March! I was so surprised and relieved! I built it a box for it to live in and still have access to the plant bed and I continued to feed her well. She soon abandoned the box and dug a borrow. She quadrupled in size with a good and varied diet and I now want to release it into the wild. However, for the past several days It has not emerged from the burrow.
I live in Sebastian Fl (mid state on the east coast). There are many nature preserves in this area. My question is should I remove it and release it in one of the many preserves? And if so, should I place it an existing burrow? Maybe I can even dig one myself and let it finish it. Or should I just let it stay where it is until warmer weather?
Thanks a bunch       Dan

Please send me some pictures when it comes out of the burrow. Quadrupling its size in a short period of time is not typical for a gopher tortoise, so it may be another species. Some pictures will help me figure that out.
Thanks,       Becky

Date: November 20, 2014, Subject: Tortoise shell {keep?}, From: Radek
I have vacation home in Daytona beach, when I was cleaning my backyard I found dead gopher tortoise. It was just shell with some bones inside. It must lies there at least half year. Can I legally keep it. And if yes, can I sell it?
Thank you.

Gopher tortoises (including pieces and parts) cannot legally be kept without a permit, and definitely not sold.

From: veronica, Subject: {can I send you pictures?}, Date: November 13, 2014
I think I found a small gopher tortoise starting it’s burrow at my office complex. (there is a small lake and wooded area). There are no plans to develop this area (it’s a small picnic area), but they mow at least every two weeks.
I guess, my first question is can I send you pictures? It may be a box turtle, it’s hard for me to tell, it was tucked in its shell a bit and I couldn’t see any markings on the head or the shape of the legs.
Second, if it is a gopher, will the owner of the commercial property have to do anything?
Sincerely,       Veronica

Hi Veronica,
Yes, please send me some pictures of the turtle and the burrow.

Date: November 8, 2014, Subject: Just wondering {eating sand},From: April
I have several places in my yard with play sand, and i also have 4 gopher tortoise in the yard , grass is growing up threw the play sand , and whhn i see the turtle eating the grass he gets the sand around his mouth and it looks like he;s eating the sand to will that harm him

When tortoises eat their “natural” food, they get sand all over them. I don’t think getting sand around or even in the mouth is going to hurt the tortoises. If it were to make them sick for some reason, they will quit eating it.

Date: November 3, 2014, Subject: Gopher / and Dog digging holes ,??, From: Patamery
I am having a problem with a gopher tortoise digging holes under my fence , which I wouldn't normally mind other than the fact that my dog is getting out, going down the burrow, and constantly barking at the tortoise. I have tried placing big wooden blocks along my fence line to cover the holes on my side of the fence, but both the dog and Gopher dig around them... I don't want the dog to hurt the poor thing nor do I want my dog getting out and possibly getting hurt or taken to animal control. What else can I do ?? I live in North Brevard County.

I have experienced the same problem. Bury hardware cloth 12 – 18 inches around the bottom of your fence line. It is a pain to do, but it works. Maybe you would only need to do part of the fence line where the tortoise goes.
I once tried barbed wire around the bottom of my fence, but the dog just kept going under it, even when he was getting poked.
Write back if you have other questions.       Becky

Date: October 31, 2014, Subject: Mating question, From: Karen
We have a number of gopher borrows close to our property (Dunnellon, FL) and one in the back yard which is home to a female. We sit on our lanai and watch when the suitors come calling. Yesterday I watched one come around for a visit and it certainly appeared to have been a successful conjugal visit! Isn't it too late in the season for mating? Do I need to keep an eye out for hatchlings which would put it into January?
Thanks, Karen

Hi Karen,
It has been documented that female gopher tortoises that mate in the late summer/fall can store sperm at least over the winter (and maybe longer) to use for fertilizing eggs that will be laid in the spring. Keep an eye on her next spring to see if she digs a nest cavity and lays eggs. It might be in the apron of a burrow. If you do see that behavior, please stay away from the nest site so you don’t attract predators.
Let me know if anything happens!
Thanks,       Becky

Date: October 30, 2014, From: steve, Subject: tortoise {laying eggs}
Can an tortoise lay eggs any time of the year?

Typically, they lay eggs in the spring. If you see a tortoise laying eggs during other times, and especially if they deposit them on the ground and not into a hole, they are shedding infertile eggs that won’t hatch.

Date: October 29, 2014, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Navigation, From: Ray
We have a couple of GTs that live in our pasture. One of them often comes into the yard, wonders around, eats some and then heads back to his burrow in the pasture. We were just curious about how he finds his way back to his burrow since he doesn't seem to follow a specific path every time.
Thanks.       Ray

Hi Ray,
Several theories have been discussed, and some or all of them may be right. These include navigating using the sun, magnetics (as in birds), scents, and landmarks. Bottom line – nobody knows for sure!

From: Julie, Subject: Two gopher turtles on their backs, Date: October 14, 2014
I found two large gopher turtles 7 feet apart from each other and on their backs in my pasture. It was upsetting to see . Why would that happen? I turned them over and they moved on into their burrow. Any ideas? No dogs here.
Julie, Brooksville Florida

Hi Julie,
When gopher tortoises “fight”, they often try to turn each other over. Apparently, this was a tie. If they cannot right themselves, they can die from heat, cold, dehydration, or predators. Good thing you came along.
All that being said, keep your eyes open, just in case something else is going on and flipped them over. Coyotes?

From: Deborah, Subject: {baby tortoise in ocean?}, Date: October 12, 2014
Baby gopher tortoise heading to the ocean.Why would a gopher turtle head to the ocean and will he survive. Debbie

It is well documented that gopher tortoises will occasionally go into the ocean. They have been seen coming out, so I assume they can survive the experience. There is some thought that the salt water helps get rid of ectoparasites, such as ticks and leeches.
There has been an unusually high number of people writing or telling me that they have seen tortoises on the beach or in the ocean this year. Maybe it is a bad year for ticks!
Feel free to write back if you have other questions.

From: Jody, Subject: Baby gopher turtle {can't open eyes}, Date: October 9, 2014
Won't open its eyes. 2" long female central Ga strong population of adults in area. Is this a defense mechanism or is something wrong with her. Sluggish. Temp in mid to low 80's F.

Eye issues like you describe are very common in hatchling gopher tortoises. It probably won’t live because it can’t eat or hide from predators. I suggest you put it back where you found it or take it to a wildlife rehabilitation facility.

From: david, Subject: Tortoise {smell?}, Date: October 9, 2014
Does the gopher tortoise have a sense of smell?

Hi David,
Yes, all tortoises have a well-developed sense of smell.

From: DENISE, Subject: {travel at night?}, Date: October 8, 2014
I just wondered if Gopher turtles ever travel at night or just during the day?
Thank you       Denise

Hi Denise,
Gopher tortoises are considered to be diurnal (active during the day). However, it is well documented that they will come out at night occasionally to feed, especially if it is too hot most of the day for them to be comfortable.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions.

From: Dave, Subject: Breed?, Date: October 8, 2014What tortoise?
We have had our tortoise for 40 years now she lays 5 eggs at a time so we know she is a female we would love to know what breed of tortoise she is. Has four claws on front legs. Have a feeling horsfield ? Best regards Dave

Where did you get her?


From: Chris, Subject: Baby gopher turtle that won't eat, Date: October 7, 2014
I just found a baby gopher turtle that's eye's are not open an she wont eat whay can I do to help her ?

Please take the baby to a wildlife rehabilitator asap. If you need help finding one, write me back and tell me your state and county.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Becky A., Subject: Suicidal gopher tortoise?, Date: October 4, 2014
Hi Becky,
I live on Amelia Island, FL. The dunes area is excellent tortoise habitat and is full of them, all different ages. Probably half a dozen times a year I will see a tortoise out on the beach. Sometimes they head straight into the surf until the point the waves pick them up and start tossing them around and sucking them out to sea! I'm not sure there's any answer as to why they would engage in this seemingly suicidal behavior, and when I see them over their heads in the water I do rescue them. But, what is the best course of action when I see them walking the beach, or walking towards the water? Is it best to just leave them alone? Or should they be returned to the dunes?
Thanks for your help!       ~Becky

Hi Becky,
It is not unusual to see tortoises on the beach and in the ocean, but reports of that have been particularly common this summer. Some people think that they get into the saltwater to get rid of parasites, such as ticks. That makes sense to me, and maybe this has been a bad year for parasites.
The best (and legal) thing to do is let the tortoises be. They work by instinct and not intelligence, so committing suicide isn’t in their realm of behaviors. I suppose that even when it looks like they are getting pulled away, they manage to get back, maybe just further down the beach.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions.       Becky J

From: Linette, Subject: Found a baby tortoise, Date: October 2, 2014
not sure of it is a gopher. I have no idea but I looked on the internet and it loos similar. Not sure what to do with the T. Is there anywhere it can take her? Can I keep her? Or do I have to let her go. I found her on my porch. I don't want anything to happen to her. Help!!!!
I live in leesburg florida part of lake county.

It is a hatchling gopher tortoise and they are legally protected, so you cannot keep it. Please take it back to where you found it and release it either into a burrow or under some vegetation so it won’t be so obvious to predators. Please let it go as soon as you possibly can because it is important for the animal to be finding and eating the kind of food it needs to be healthy and grow. If you can’t do this for some reason, or if you have questions, write me back.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Audrey, Subject: Gophers {property clearing}, Date: October 1, 2014
Recently my husband and I were looking to buy property. There are about 4 tracks for sale and people are starting to clear them. Can I remove the gophers before these people bury them?

It is illegal to clear property that has gopher tortoises on it until the tortoises are removed. Relocation requires a permit. Please tell me what state and county you are in so I can send you to the right people. If you see someone clearing the land without first having a tortoise survey and relocation done, tell them they are breaking state and potentially federal laws.

From: Samkit, Subject: Tortoise {dead?}, Date: October 1, 2014

I have a tortoise which seemed alright till last night.
But today the tortoise seemed to be dead.
All four limbs are out.
Neck is also out.
ANd eyes are closed.
Amd the main thing i found him upside down.
And floating on the water
Please help me as i m very mich tensed

I am sorry, but it sounds like the animal is dead to me. Please email me some pictures of the tortoise and its cage/home.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Carolynn, Subject: Tortoise Shell {painted}, Date: September 30, 2014

Painted gopher tortoiseHello,
I have a friend who has gopher tortoises in her yard. They've been there for almost two years. Well just today my friend looked out in her yard and saw that two of the gopher tortoises had blue on their shells. I attached a photo to show the colour. They don't know if there's anything wrong or if they need to get a vet to come out.
Thank you!       Maria Carolynn G.

Hi Maria Carolynn,
I don’t think there is anything physically wrong with the tortoise; it looks like chalk on its shell. Did your friend look at it closely or try to rub the color off? Somebody may have chalked or painted them (which is illegal) so they would recognize them again. My suggestion is that she keep an eye on them, see if the color comes off, and if they sit out in the rain or overnight or quit eating, she should call the vet.
Let me know what she finds.
Thanks,       Becky

gopher Tortoise on the beachFrom: Darrell, Subject: dig out?,Date: September 30, 2014
Cement truck ran over the hole... can he/she dig his/her way out? Lots of grass around the hole. I'm heartbroken as i see the gopher almost once a week during the summer for the past ten years.

They can typically dig out if not injured in the squashing. If you don’t see it in the next few days, take a shovel and carefully create an opening so that the tortoise can see light coming into the burrow. That might provide some encouragement. Good luck!
Write me back if you have other questions or if you see it out.       Becky

From: Sharon, Subject: Gopher at the beach, Date: September 29, 2014

Is it normal for a Gopher Tortoise to go into the ocean?

Yes, I have seen it myself (picture attached; It had just come out from a swim) and heard of it many times. However, I have had more people mention that or ask me about it this year than ever before. Makes me wonder what is going on that is different than before, if anything. It has been suggested that they get in the salt water to get rid of ticks and other parasites, so maybe this is a bad year for that.


From: nicolenpr, Subject: Gopher Tortoise and burrow within fenced yard, Date: September 28, 2014

We have a gopher tortoise who has lived in our yard for around 15 or more years. He came into our fenced in yard as a baby, not really sure how, and never left. He has lived in a burrow that goes under the side of our home for about 10 years now. He originally had his burrow on the other side of the yard, and moved over when the trees got bigger so that he could be in the part of the yard that has sun. The tortoise does its own thing, eating what ever we have in the yard - grass, weeds, (we don't really have a manicured lawn that is treated with chemicals and pesticides).
He has made our yard his home, and has never tried to dig out under the fence.
I am concerned because we are having an engineer come over tomorrow morning because we have had sinkhole activity in the area. We wanted to get our house checked out also. Our insurance agent did not notice the burrow, so I did not disclose information that wasn't directly asked. I figured when the engineer comes tomorrow, he will probably ask me questions about the burrow. If we do not have sinkhole activity and they don't need to do anything, the tortoise and burrow will not be disturbed. If they do have to do something, we will have to relocate the tortoise.
Have we done anything illegal all these years allowing the tortoise to live in our yard? As a baby he could have gotten back out I guess the same way he came in, or dig out. He never did. I actually feel really bad if he has to be relocated since he has had the same burrow for so many years.
Thank you for your input. We are in the Tampa Bay area.       Nicole

Hi Nicole,
As long as the tortoise is there on its own and you have not attempted to keep it inside your yard, you are fine. Believe me, if it wanted out, it would dig out under whatever fence you have unless you buried the fence a foot or two under the ground.
Let me know what the engineer says. If there are sinkhole issues (and I would get a second opinion, unless the engineer is someone you know and/or trust), what they need to do may not be a reason to relocate the tortoise. I hope it can stay, too, because if it has stayed there for that long, there probably isn’t anyplace much for it to go nearby.

From: Glenn, Subject: Is this a Gopher Tortoise?, Date: September 27, 2014

African spurred tortoise
Hi there. I have observed this tortoise in my yard a couple of days ago and cannot identify whether is is a Gopher or not.
This one in the picture is closer to 18" nose to back of shell.
I have a home in Port Charlotte, Fl

No, it is an African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata). It is the 3rd largest tortoise species in the world, so that one is a baby. It is an exotic that was someone’s pet; it either escaped captivity or was released. I suggest that if you have it or see it again that you take it to animal control or a rehabilitation facility.

From: Caroline, Subject: Request for info-GT on property, Date: September 27, 2014
I would love to receive your info about proper habitat maintenance when you have Gophers living on your property. There's an adult female who had been on our land for several years, and three of her eggs just hatched, so we'd like to create the best habitat we can for the family.
Please let me know if you need anything else.
Kind regards,       Caroline

Hi Caroline,
I have attached the chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. Feel free to write back if you have questions or need more information.

From: Edward, Subject: urban tortoise, Date: September 26, 2014

Development near my property has flushed out a mid size tortoise that tried to find refuge near the house, it is in much danger in this urban setting unless it is able to make a burrow on the property, how may I encourage it to do so?

The secret to keeping the tortoise there is giving it access to the things it needs to live. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote that has some information you can probably use. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions. Good luck!       Becky

From: Tara, Subject: gopher turtle {Driveway cleaning}, Date: September 25, 2014
Hello Becky,
I would like to know what the restrictions are in regards to discovering a gopher tortoise living on my property. I live in a deed restricted community and am required to clean my driveway from time to time. The tortoise lives approximately 5 ft. from my driveway and I am concerned that the chemicals that are used may be hazardous. Could I get in trouble with Florida Wildlife for cleaning my driveway with chemicals within so many feet of the tortoise?
I am responsible for keeping my driveway clean and if I don’t, face the possibility of fines for not doing so. Please let me know what my options are.

Hi Tara,
State law will trump the HOA. There is a 25 ft. protection radius around a burrow.
Is there no other option to clean the driveway other than chemicals? That is so bad for the groundwater, the soil, and everything that lives there. Maybe you could ask for a speaker from the St. John’s River Water Management District to come to a HOA meeting to discuss more environmentally friendly alternatives. Just a thought.

From: Teresa, Subject: Gopher turtle {not pooping}, Date: September 20, 2014
I've had the turtle for about a month and this past week I've noticed it hasn't pooped, is there anything I can do?

What kind of turtle is it? Can you please email me some pictures of the turtle and its home? What have you been feeding it? Where do you live?

From: Beth, Subject: Gopher in the yard, Date: September 18, 2014
I recently spotted a gopher tortoise in my yard. She is not going anywhere but she is not burrowing. She sleeps under a huge prickly pear which is probably what attracted her in the first place. Is it know for them not to make a burrow?
Thank You.

Gopher tortoises typically spend most of their time in a burrow, so it sounds like it is not acting right. Have you seen it feeding or moving around at all? Is it out in the same spot all night long? If it is not moving or feeding and not disappearing in the evening, I would take it to a wildlife rehabilitator to be checked. Please write me back with your state and county location if you need help finding one.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Kitty, Subject: Gopher tortoise baby, Date: September 18, 2014
About a month ago I rescued a gopher tortoise egg from the nest the rain had washed out. It is now hatching and I wonder if I should put it back down in the hole with the mother or try to relocate it somewhere else. The other eggs hatched but do not know where they went.
Thanks for your help!

Please release the baby into the burrow where you found the eggs.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Nichole, Subject: Gopher tortoise do they hiss, Date: September 14, 2014
Does a female gopher tortoise hiss and why ?
Also how would you know if she has made a nest in the yard

Female and male gopher tortoises will hiss, but not because they are mad. When something startles them and they quickly pull their legs and head into the shell, it forces air out of their lungs, resulting in a hissing noise.
Tortoises typically dig a hole in the sand mound in front of a burrow and bury their eggs in that. If you can’t see the nest, that is good, because, hopefully, predators won’t see it either. If you suspect that a tortoise has laid eggs, please stay away from the area.
Thanks,       Becky

From: jerry, Subject: Greenbelt, Date: September 10, 2014
Becky,I am leasing property in hernando county fl. And my landlord has me green belting the property with cows or goats or sheep as part of the lease .And the land is covered with gofher turtles holes. I do not want to mess with their eco-system. Can he make me green belt.

I suppose a landlord can ask you to do whatever they want, as long as it’s legal. He obviously wants the tax break from qualifying as agricultural land. The web link below is to Florida’s Farm Bureau and should tell you if the land would qualify. Another option is to contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ( and see if there is any kind of tax incentive or program for private lands conserving tortoises.
Please feel free to write back if you need more information. Good luck!

From: Paul, Subject: need help {Perfect environment?}, Date: September 11, 2014
what is the perfect environment for a tortoises to prevent fear and distress?

Most (if not all) creatures flourish best in their natural, undisturbed environment. That is difficult to find or duplicate, but the closer you come, the better. What that “prefect” environment is will be different for different creatures, and even different species of tortoises.
Feel free to write back if you need more specific information.

From: Margaret, Subject: Question {burrows}, Date: September 9, 2014
How long does a gopher tortoise live in his burrow? How many burrow does the tortoise dig in a year?

Each tortoise can dig several burrows and moves around among them. Where the tortoise stays at any one time depends on many things, including food resources, other tortoises, ground water levels, rainfall, and air temperature. It takes several hours for a tortoise to dig a burrow.
I hope this is helpful. Feel free to write back if you need more information.

From: Diane, Subject: African Spurred Tortoises, Date: September 8, 2014
Just looking for direction on a local store that has an abundance of these on display. The cages look too small and I am concerned about the well being of the turtles. Who can I report this to so they can check in on the turtles. They seem to care about the turtles as they are not for sale but are off a parking lot and in a very small enclosures.
Thanks,       Diane

Hi Diane,
Here is a link to the Orange County folks who deal with animal cruelty/abuse/neglect issues. They have numerous ways to report problems. Try to make sure that whoever you contact understands that spurred tortoises are the third largest species in the world and that keeping them in small enclosures is inhumane. Also, if the tortoises manage to escape, an exotic species has been released. Good luck, and write back if this doesn’t get any results.

From: Mary, Subject: Summer Question, Date: September 4, 2014
What would cause a Gopher Tortoise, named Poke, to suddenly disappear? Poke has been living in a burrow he dug near a home that has been unoccupied for a couple years. Recently a sign, "Welcome Turtles” was erected outside of Pokes home and some rocks placed in a place they have never been. Since that time we have not seen Poke. Do they stay under ground in the summer and should I stop assuming something sinister happened to my friend of many years? If these people covered his burrow opening could he have escaped? It just seems awfully convenient that they hang out a welcome sign and he is gone. Thanks. Mary GW

Hi Mary,
    It seems a bit crazy to call attention to something if you are breaking the law, so I doubt there is anything sinister being done by whoever put up the sign. However, if someone else saw the sign and the burrow, they could have nabbed him. Let’s hope not.
    Because they are cold-blooded reptiles and cannot regulate their body temperatures internally, tortoises have to adjust their environment to stay cool or warm. If you are looking for Poke in the hot part of the day, you won’t see him. Try looking mid-morning and late afternoon. If you can go to the burrow, see if there are any fresh tracks or a slide into the burrow. Be sneaky when you walk up; tortoises will often sit just inside the mouth of the burrow in the shade. Tortoises also will use more than one burrow, so Poke might have other places to go during different times, depending on heat, rainfall, food resources, etc. Perhaps he will come back.
    One last thought: He may not have appreciated the new additions to his home area and decided to relocate himself. Not much you can do about that other than watch for him elsewhere nearby and wish him good luck!
    Feel free to write back if you have other questions, and let me know if he turns up anytime soon. Also, please let me know if you have any concrete evidence that there was any illegal activity associated with Poke’s diappearance.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Rhonda, Subject: Discoloration on shell, Date: September 1, 2014,
tortoise with discolored shell Hi Becky, what would cause this shell to be discolored? I live in Madison county in north Florida and this tortoise died back in May of this year.

Hey Rhonda,
Just to qualify, I am not a vet, so what I am about to say is strictly my best guess. J Whenever I have seen shell abnormalities (shape, color, bumps and knobs, etc.), it has been related to poor diet. If this tortoise was kept in captivity without the proper diet, or if it was wild, but in a place that didn’t provide the necessary resources, you would first see the evidence in the shell.
Hope this is helpful, at least gives you a place to start.


From: Susan, Subject: Time of day for activity, Date: August 28, 2014
Hello Becky,
I live near an area that has a natural Gopher Tortoise habitat but have not seem them.
What time of day are they usually active?

Hi Sue,
Activity times is mostly correlated with air temperature, which will depend on your latitude and the season. Tortoises are generally active between 70 and 90 degrees F. This time of year, you are more likely to see them in the morning and early evening when it is not too hot.

From: David, Subject: Fwd: {Round Up}, Date: August 23, 2014
We just had land cleaned out where gopher tortoises live shouldn't the professional lawn service know not to use Round Up.

      Don't expect any lawn service to not use chemicals unless you specifically request that they don’t. They are not breaking the law. Supposedly, Round Up and other pesticides don’t harm animals if applied correctly, etc., but I don’t have any confidence in that. Besides, chemicals may not directly harm the animals in the area, but if you kill the food source, what are they supposed to eat?
      You might look for an “eco-friendly” lawn service in your area.

Dear Kim,
      The reason the tortoises “sneak” into your mom’s yard is because it also used to be part of their home. Gopher tortoises are legally protected, so you are not supposed to move them, feed them, or interfere with them in any way, and the same goes for the dogs. You can try blocking the tortoises with mesh, but they will dig under it if they want in the yard badly enough.
      Tortoises don’t have teeth, but it is extremely unlikely they would try to bite your dogs or you. Their main line of defense is to pull into the shell or go into a burrow.
      My suggestion is that you and/or your mom try to train the dogs to leave the tortoises alone. There may be classes locally, or check into classes for hunting dogs that teach them to avoid snakes. Or you could give the side yard to the tortoises and let the dogs run in other parts of the yard. Without knowing your exact situation, it is hard for me to help, but it sounds like you have some room.
      Feel free to write back if you would like.

From: Heather, Subject: Moving a tortoise that is living under a home. Date: August 21, 2014
Is it possible or legal to remove a tortoise that has made it’s burrow under an individual’s home? It has been there for many years and now the insurance company is asking that the animal be removed and the hole filled and sealed. What is the procedure for this?
Thank you,       Heather

Hi Heather,
It is possible to move a tortoise, but not legally without a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. There really is no good reason to move it. I have heard of and seen many instances of tortoise burrows under all kinds of structures and have never known of problems. It would set a bad precedent if the Wildlife Commission allowed the insurance industry to dictate protected species policy.
Please feel free to write back if I can help.

From: pic, Subject: age question, Date: August 19, 2014
Hi my name is Donna I have a Gopher Tortoise that I rescued from the road that had been hit by a vehicle, I am a wildlife rescuer and rehabber, it will be released as soon as it is healed. My question is the age, I know that it is a male and he is big he measures 13.5 inches long and about 14 inches across.
I am in Lakeland which is in Polk County.
Thank You       Donna

Hi Donna,
There is no reliable way to age a live gopher tortoise. At his size, all we can say is that he is an adult and older than 20 years. Tortoises that are orange or brownish and have a soft shell are typically 5 years or less. They are sexually mature (concave vs. flat plastron) at around 20 years, but that varies with latitude. Tortoises in the northern part of the range don’t feed all year long and grow more slowly than central or south Florida tortoises.

From: Larry, Subject: Gopher tortoise {?} found in Polk County, Fl., Date: August 18, 2014

African spurredAttached you will find 3 pictures {1 attached-ed.}of a gopher that I came across this morning. It took two adults to pick it up as it was attempting to cross a busy highway. I would estimate the weight to be 50 pounds. Any idea on what the age of this tortoise would be?

It’s not a gopher tortoise. It is an African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata), an exotic species. Sulcatas are the third largest tortoise species in the world, so the one you saw is a baby. It must have belonged to somebody and either got away or was released. If you see it again, please call the local animal control so it can be taken out of the wild.
Thank you,       Becky

From: bubly98, Subject: Keeping Gopher Tortoise Out of Yard and Interaction w/ Dogs, Date: August 17, 2014
      Hi my name is Kim I am writing for my Mom who just moved into a new home in Tarpon Springs Florida and has been having a problem with gopher tortoises. Her side yard is about an acre and surrounded by picket fence for her 2 dobermans. The dobermans are very interested in the gopher tortoises especially when they sneak into the yard or put their heads through the fence. The big guy Bentley is 102 lbs and he won't touch them he just barks but the female Maggie she is 89 lbs she barks and wants to touch them with her nose.
      This one tortoise is very big and bold. He does not scare and keeps his head through the picket fence when the dogs are close. How sharp are their beaks? (Is that what you call them?) Will he do a lot of damage if he snaps at one of them? Would he clamp or just nip? I suggested putting mesh up along the picket fence so they cant stick their head through, do you think that will deter them?
      Also there was a spot behind a bush where they were getting into the yard so the gardener blocked that off, any chance they would dig into the yard now?
      And finally the little guys, at the moment they are small enough to go under some spots and are getting into my Moms yard and she is afraid the dogs might accidentally hurt them so she has been going out with them every time they go out which has been a pain but she doesn't want either side getting hurt. How should she be moving these back to their home? They all live in the empty lot next door.
      We would appreciate any advice you can give us we are animal lovers and want to coexist with the gopher tortoise safely. They are really amazing to watch. I hope no one buys the lot next door or the owner plans to build a house because they have a lot of gopher tortoises calling it home.
      Thanks Again.       Sincerely,       Kim

From: bubly98, Subject: Keeping Gopher Tortoise Out of Yard and Interaction w/ Dogs, Date: August 17, 2014
Hi my name is Kim I am writing for my Mom who just moved into a new home in Tarpon Springs Florida and has been having a problem with gopher tortoises. Her side yard is about an acre and surrounded by picket fence for her 2 dobermans. The dobermans are very interested in the gopher tortoises especially when they sneak into the yard or put their heads through the fence. The big guy Bentley is 102 lbs and he won't touch them he just barks but the female Maggie she is 89 lbs she barks and wants to touch them with her nose.
This one tortoise is very big and bold. He does not scare and keeps his head through the picket fence when the dogs are close. How sharp are their beaks? (Is that what you call them?) Will he do a lot of damage if he snaps at one of them? Would he clamp or just nip? I suggested putting mesh up along the picket fence so they cant stick their head through, do you think that will deter them?
Also there was a spot behind a bush where they were getting into the yard so the gardener blocked that off, any chance they would dig into the yard now?
And finally the little guys, at the moment they are small enough to go under some spots and are getting into my Moms yard and she is afraid the dogs might accidentally hurt them so she has been going out with them every time they go out which has been a pain but she doesn't want either side getting hurt. How should she be moving these back to their home? They all live in the empty lot next door.
We would appreciate any advice you can give us we are animal lovers and want to coexist with the gopher tortoise safely. They are really amazing to watch. I hope no one buys the lot next door or the owner plans to build a house because they have a lot of gopher tortoises calling it home.
Thanks Again.       Sincerely,       Kim

Dear Kim,
The reason the tortoises “sneak” into your mom’s yard is because it also used to be part of their home. Gopher tortoises are legally protected, so you are not supposed to move them, feed them, or interfere with them in any way, and the same goes for the dogs. You can try blocking the tortoises with mesh, but they will dig under it if they want in the yard badly enough.
Tortoises don’t have teeth, but it is extremely unlikely they would try to bite your dogs or you. Their main line of defense is to pull into the shell or go into a burrow.
My suggestion is that you and/or your mom try to train the dogs to leave the tortoises alone. There may be classes locally, or check into classes for hunting dogs that teach them to avoid snakes. Or you could give the side yard to the tortoises and let the dogs run in other parts of the yard. Without knowing your exact situation, it is hard for me to help, but it sounds like you have some room.
Feel free to write back if you would like.

From: Peggie, Subject: Video of Tortoise being tortured! Found hatchling what to do?, Date: August 16, 2014

hatchling mud turtle
Dear Becky, have you heard anything regarding the video ?Are those putrid, barbaric punks(expletive deleted) being prosecuted yet? Please let me know if you have heard any news at all. I would very much appreciate it. Now- on to the quandary we face at home! I found a hatchling this morning as I was taking my dog out in our backyard.It was on a paver stone and at first I thought it was a rock but it was glistening in the sun so I bent down to look closer.When I did I saw a slight movement and picked it up and surprise - it was a newly hatched baby .I ran in my house and watered it and he "CHARLIE" started moving as if he was waking from a deep sleep .I made him a habitat while searching online to find out what he was.He in the meantime was drinking water and after trying to walk he settled down and burrowed a hole in the dirt I put him in.It is more mud than dirt but he seems comfy. I will be bringing him to my vet tomorrow.He has a rescue for ALL animals on his farm. I am sending a photo to make sure he is a gopher tortoise.He is only the size of my thumbnail.Any idea on how old he is?Sorry for the long-winded question .Thanks for all the great humanity you share with all!
Peace,       Peggie

Hi Peggie,
It isn’t a gopher tortoise. It’s a hatchling mud turtle.
All I know about the kids in the video is that the FL Wildlife Commission was going to prosecute them. I am sure that when anything happens, everyone will find out. Quite frankly, I am less concerned about them getting into trouble than I am with the fact that they did what they did in the first place. It is a sad statement about our society and the anger in some of our kids, and I feel like we are all responsible for that. If you don’t believe me, sit and watch tv some night, or go to a movie. Violence is “normal”. If those kids are putrid, barbaric punks, we only have ourselves to thank.
Peace,       Becky

From: Rachelle, Subject: Going into surf on Amelia island -normal behavior??, Date: August 15, 2014

Yes, we see it occasionally.

Young GT

From: Joseph, Subject: Saw this little guy in my yard can you identify, Date: August 13, 2014

It is a very young gopher tortoise.

From: Shaun, Subject: Hi there {identity?}, Date: August 10, 2014Help identify
Is this a gopher tortoise?

Where did it come from?

GT near water

From: Nicole, Subject: Found a gopher turtle {near water}, Date: August 9, 2014
Hello here's a pic of her should we leave her there ?

Yes, please leave it there.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Jessica, Subject: Planting natural plants for gophers, Date: August 9, 2014
We would be very interested in reading your friends book on what to plant for the gopher living in our yard!
thanks so much       Jessica

Attached. This information is copyrighted, so use it for your own education only please.

From: Jessica, Subject: Gopher Turtle active but not burrowing?, Date: August 9, 2014
Hi there,
About a week ago we found a young gopher walking around in our back yard.
he seems to have escaped some attack at some point, he has holes on the top and bottom of his shell like from a dog? But seems to be ok, they look old. He decided to stay in the yard and found a corner spot by our fence. He eats and walks around and comes back to his spot but he has only half buried himself, he is not burrowing? Just want to be sure he seems to be acting right from your perspective?

Hatchling tortoises often do not dig a burrow, but stay underneath vegetation or dirt. As long as he is out and about, and eating, he is probably fine. However, if you notice that he isn’t eating, or sits out in the open, you should take him to a wildlife rehabilitator for treatment.

From: "17AJenn, Subject: Tortoise {Nicked by a car}, Date: August 3, 2014
My son found a gopher tortoise that seems to have been nicked by a car. His shell has a chunk missing over the spine and a crack from that chunk up. The crack does not appear to be all the way through. I have cleaned the wound out to the best I can for now and stopped the bleeding. I would guess by the injury that it happened earlier today. At first we thought that his leg/pelvis was injured since we did not seem to see him using it. Since bringing him home, he is using all extremities. Of course this is a Sunday so regular vets are closed and I do not want to sink money into a wild tortoise.
I don't know if he will make it or not but he has drunk and is moving around just fine. At the moment we have him in the house to keep the wound clean and away from gnats and other insects. When I walked outside to get something and came back in, he had climbed up on our dogs big pillow blanket and was very much comfortable. So in his area he has a box with a opening with dirt and grass to borrow in, water and some weeds, dandelions... for snack. Oh and the dogs blanket in another area. He keeps going onto that to rest.
My question is, since he is injured and is inside where it is not best for him, should I put a heat lamp in the room for him to choose to go under? We are in Florida where we have air conditioner running most of the time around 75 degrees. My other concern is that his injury is on the top of his body and I don't want him to bake that area either. Any suggestions?
Side note, we are a small rescue but have never dealt with tortoise before.
-Have a great day,       Jenn

Hi Jenn,
I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. Have been on vacation since last week. Do you still have the tortoise? If so, I suggest you take it to a larger rehab facility to get treatment. Let me know if you need help finding someplace.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Garrett, Subject: Relocation and return, Date: August 2, 2014
If a gopher tortoise is relocated (by about a block) will it return to its burrow or move on and find another place?

Gopher tortoises are a protected species and it is illegal to relocate them without a permit, even a short distance away. That being said, tortoises typically will try to return to their home, and they often get into the road and get killed. There are specific guidelines to help make relocation successful that should be followed (after getting a permit).
Please write back if you need more information.

From: CynThia, Subject: Gopher Tortoise?, Date: August 2, 2014 sculcata
Hi there,
This little beast (picture attached) scared the dickens out of me 7/20/14 when it walked up behind and between my feet while I was doing some yard chores. From what I can find, I believe it's a gopher tortoise. Is it possible to age and sex him/her? It's shell from front to back is 7-8 inches long. I've seen it two times since and it seems to be a loner but maybe I have just not seen others. Very surprised to see it at all as I've got a small yard backing onto a pond in a residential neighborhood in Trinity Florida.

It is an African spurred tortoise, also called a sulcata (Geochelone sulcata). They are not native to Florida and it probably either escaped from captivity or was released. It is a young animal and will grow very large; sulcatas are the third largest tortoise species in the world.
My suggestion is that you call animal control, a zoo, or find a pet store that has exotic animals. It needs to be taken care of and probably would not survive outside on its own.
Let me know if you cannot place it and I will try to help.

CynThia: Oh, how interesting. I think I know where he hides out. I will check it out and look for him and I will call animal control if he's still nearby. I was leaving him alone thinking he was a gopher. Thank you so much Rebecca.
      Thank you for caring and acting on it. Good luck!       Becky
CynThea: I'd never have known to act. Thank you so much for replying to my email.

From: joanna, Subject: Found this guy I think he belongs to someone, Date: July 31, 2014
We live in Brownsville Tx and found this Tortoise in our neighborhood. We believe he belongs to someone cause the nails are painted but, after some research. We come to find out that it is illegal to posses a Berlandier’s Tortoise. I don't want to just let it go cause I think he had a previous owner. I’m torn because it could be just someone that just picked it up from the road. Should I just take him to the Zoo? or look for the owner? Please get back to me asap thanks

I apologize for just getting back to you. Have been on vacation, in Texas actually.
You are right about not letting it go without knowing where it came from. I suggest you take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. They will be able to determine if it is releasable or not.

From: Rebecca, Subject: Where did he go?, Date: July 25, 2014
We recently purchased property on Sanibel and were delighted to find we had a Gopher Tortoise. We saw him in April. I was just back visiting the property and I don't see any sign of him? Do they move to different burrows? The lady who lived there left pictures and it seems like he has been there for quite a few years. Sad, not to see him. Wondering where he would go?
Thanks       Becky

Hi Becky,
Gopher tortoises typically dig several burrows within their home range, so he may be back at some point. Sometimes they have “winter homes” and “summer homes”, or they will switch burrows because of rainfall patterns or food availability. Just keep your eyes open and hopefully, you will see him next time.

From: Rick, Subject: Tortoise and Little Dogs, Date: July 27, 2014
We have three Yorkies and a Morkie and live not very far ( a mile?) north of that Ormond Beach strip of land you discussed with a Linda in 2009.
And I think a gopher tortoise has dug a nest under the neighbor's fence on the other side of our adjoining chain link fence.
Our two "hunter" Yorkies have discovered the tortoise who sits at the opening of his hole just two feet away from them and not only just stares as they bark madly but today I found him right up to the chai link on the other side as they were going nuts!
Is he a danger to the little dogs: I.e. Can he snap and open up their snouts or break a leg with his bite?
I'm thinking of trying to relocate him if it is them versus him.
What do you suggest?

Hi Rick,
Gopher tortoises are a protected species and it is illegal to relocate (or harm, harass, feed, etc.) without a permit from the state of Florida. I suggest that you work with your dogs. How long has the behavior been happening? I had a poodle mix, another “hunter” breed, that barked his head off for a couple of weeks at a tortoise I was keeping, and then he got tired of it and quit. You might try putting a board up against the fence on your side so the dogs can’t see the burrow entrance. You could also investigate avoidance training; hunters use those techniques to teach their dogs to leave alone venomous snakes.
Gopher tortoises (and all other turtles) do not have teeth. They can snap down with their beaks, but that is not likely. Their main defenses are to run into the nearest burrow or to pull into their shell and cover up with their legs. Frankly, I am much more concerned about your dogs harming the tortoise than the other way around. Please realize that you are legally responsible if that happens.
If you send me some pictures of the situation, I will see if I can come up with any other ideas. Moving the tortoise is not only illegal, but the tortoise very likely would not survive the experience.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Nikki, Subject: Injured adult turtle, Date: July 27, 2014
Yesterday I had my front yard mowed An even though I told the lawn mower man that I had gopher turtles who I love and protect, today I found a turtle stuck in a small burrow, apparently trying to escape the mower. It has a big crack on the side of its shell on the side by one of its back legs. It is not bleeding, his legs are intact. When I dislodged him from the burrow he started moving. I want to know if his shell will mend by itself or is there a way I can repair it or should I take him to a wildlife rehab center. I live in lake county, florida

Please take him to a rehab facility. They can give him something to combat infection and potentially repair the shell if needed. Give them a donation if you can; that is how most rehab places survive and they do a great service. Find a place that will let you return the tortoise to its home.
Before you mow again, mark your burrows near the entrance (not blocking it) with a brightly colored pin flag.

From: Rick, Subject: turtle St. Aug Beach, Date: July 18, 2014
At St Aug Bch yesterday we saw what appeared to be a gopher turtle walking into the water from the dunes. When it got out in the water we returned it to the dunes only to see it return to the water. After talking to other people on the beach we were not the first to return it to the dunes. We continued to watch the turtle which finally made its way back to the ocean not to return. Can you give us any information on the turtles behavior. Thank you

Tortoise at the seashore.

Hi Rick,
I have seen tortoises do the same thing, and no matter how many times they are “rescued”, they go back. Some people have suggested that the salt water removes parasites from their skin and heals abrasions. Tortoises are not good swimmers, but maybe they just ride the waves for a little while, come into shore, and then go home. I have attached a picture.

From: Susan, Subject: Gopher turtles {bite?}, Date: July 21, 2014
My son just bought a house that backs up to a turtle reserve and I am interested in learning about them. Do gopher turtles bite like snapping turtles? What is the best way to return to their habitat if they tunnel out? When are they most likely to be out?
Thank you for helping them.

Hi Susan,
Gopher tortoises don’t typically bite.
Here are a couple of websites that will tell you all about tortoises: (Gopher Tortoise Council) (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
Look over those sites, and If you have other questions, write me back.

From: Jennifer, Subject: Facebook, Date: July 24, 2014
There is a very disturbing video all over the internet of 2 girls torturing a gopher turtle with fire gasoline and smashing it. I don't know who to contact regarding this matter. This really bothers me and I was hoping you could help direct me to whom I need to contact. Thank you for your time.

There is nothing you need to do. It is all over the news and an investigation is being done.

From: Leisha, Subject: Sneezing Gopher Tortoise, Date: July 23, 2014
Hello Becky,
I have a Gopher Tortoise that lives in our backyard. We feel truly blessed. I have noticed that the tortoise sneezes and I was wondering what to do or if this is normal? I know they are protected.
Thank you,       Leisha

Hi Leisha,
As long as the tortoise is walking around, feeding, and otherwise behaving normally, he is probably fine. If he should stop eating and sit still for long periods of time outside a burrow (a couple of days or overnight), I would take him to a wildlife rehabilitator for treatment.

From: John, Subject: Gopher in my pool enclosure, Date: July 22, 2014tortoise on patio
Hi there,
I live in jupiter fl and came home today to find a gopher tortoise wandering inside my screened pool enclosure. One of the lower screens has been popped out for a few days from storms. Anyway my kids thought it was awesome so we watched him for a while. After dinner I went outside picked the guy up and put him in my backyard so hopefully he would go back home. To my surprise about a half hour later I see him poking his way back under the screen that I had halfway put back in! So now it's 10 at night and he's just sitting in a corner of my patio... Not sure what to do?? Behind our back fence is a walking path and lake with some "natural" areas that I'm sure he came from. Also we have quite a lot of reserved habitats around the area for these guys. Thanks,

Please put him back outside the enclosure and fix the hole asap. If he falls into the pool (and don’t think he’s too smart for that, because he’s not), he will drown. If you know where there is a burrow nearby, put him there. Otherwise let him go in the morning (10 – 11 a.m. is good) or evening (4 – 5 p.m.) when it is not raining. Hopefully, he will go home. Once the screen is fixed and he can’t get in easily, you shouldn’t have any more problems.
Write me back.       Becky

From: Charles, Subject: Eggs washed away, Date: July 9, 2014
We have found 4 gopher turtle eggs that apparently washed away from their nest during heavy rain. How deep should we bury them? Should they be placed touching one another?
Thanks,       Bonnie

You can bury them (about 8 inches down is good), but the likelihood of them hatching is about zero. They have been exposed to water, temperatures that are too hot and/or too cold, and reptile eggs cannot be rotated once they are laid. My suggestion is that you leave them where they are and some animal will have a nice snack.

From: Sue, Subject: Gooher Tortoise Turtles, Leave Burrors,why?, Date: June 29, 2014
Volusia County, Fl, Port Orange. Why would Gopher Tortoise Turtles leave burrow after working so hard to dig it? Do they ever go back? How long if they do, do they stay away? Thanks Sue

Hi Sue,
Gopher tortoises typically dig several burrows within their home range. It makes sense when you think about it because they are cold-blooded reptiles that have to protect themselves from getting too hot or too cold. When you are small and slow and have a fairly large home range, you need to be able to get to safety quickly. How many burrows, where they are located, and how often or long they use them is dependent on the habitat, available resources, and other factors, such as the presence of armadillos (they will “steal” tortoise burrows and the tortoise won’t use them anymore).
If you have other questions or need more specific information, write me back.

From: Donna, Subject: Turtle {in residential area}, Date: June 22, 2014
What do you do with a gopher turtle that was found in a residential area???

If you feel like there is nowhere close by that it could be living and that someone might have dropped it off, take it to a local wildlife rehabilitator (please give them a donation if you can).

From: Donna, Subject: Gopher turtle{Follow Up :-)}, Date: June 24, 2014
I called Florida wild life and they told me to just let it go, I found him dead today He got run over by a car!!! This turtle had a white spot painted on his back and they told me that was because he had been rehabilitated before. More the reason why they should have come picked him up!!!! Very disappointed with them. I tried to save the poor thing!!!

I am very sorry.       Becky

From: mmstraney, Subject: Tortoise {enough food here?}, Date: June 20, 2014
Hello -
Recently, we have discovered a gopher tortoise has dug under our fence and made his / her home in our yard. That's not really a problem for us, but I don't think there is enough food to sustain him. We live across the street from Wickham Park and I think this would be a far better habitat for him. However, my husband thinks we need to leave him alone. We have agreed to do whatever you think is best for the tortoise.
Thanks so much for your time.       Michele

Hi Michelle,
I have to agree with hubby on this one. If there is not enough food for the tortoise, it will move on. Besides, relocating it is illegal without a permit. If you really don’t mind its company, just let it be and enjoy!

From: Denise, Subject: eggs layed June 15, 2014 {late?}, Date: June 19, 2014
I was reading on line for similar situations to me and came across your email. If I have
the correct person you should be Becky.
After one of the posts, you commented that June 3rd was late in the season for a
female to lay eggs; we just watched one of our females lay hers on June 15. We live in
Ocala Florida, Marion county.
On our 3.5 acres we know of at least 5 adults and 2 more who are only 3 or 4 years old.
We love them and enjoy their behavior. We've seen two males fight, numerous breeding's
or attempts, and their wandering peacefully while forging.
We placed items around the eggs nest to keep the many predators away. Nothing on top of the
eggs of course. Our plan is to watch the eggs for 80 to 100 days and if we are so lucky to
be home when they hatch we want to place in one of our many burrows.
My questions are: what should we do for scent on our hands when we pick them up to
move? Should they all go inside the same burrow; we have 3 we can easily get to? How
long after they come out of their shell should we wait to pick up?

Hi Deni,
If you are around when the eggs hatch, please do not move the hatchlings yourself. Besides the fact that it is illegal to do so, there are lots of reasons for me to tell you that. You are right about your scent potentially attracting predators. Another reason is that it is important that they move on their own so they can learn “the lay of the land” and can navigate the area. Also, they need a specific diet when they hatch and will immediately go around looking for the proper food. Hatchling tortoises sometimes use adult burrows, but they also did their own, or they don’t even use a burrow and just hide under vegetation.
The best thing to do is let them be. Some or all of them may not survive, but that is how nature intended it and we should not interfere.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Helia, Subject: Prickly Pear Cactus, Date: June 19, 2014
We harbor several Gophers in our forest and want to help them by planting Prickly Pear Cacti. We just want to be sure as which one they like, as 15 species answer to that name...
Any cue for us?
Thank you,       Helia

There are two native species, but the best one to plant in your yard would be Opuntia stricta. You should be able to get some from a native plant nursery.

From: Harlanwoo, Subject: Tortoise Under My House, Date: June 18, 2014
A few days ago there was a gopher tortoise on my carport. I never thought anything about it at the time and just let it go, thinking it would go somewhere else. However this morning, I found that it had burrowed under my house and there is a big pile of sand and a hole leading under the house. My question is, how do I lure it back out so I can relocate it to another natural habitat for it.
I live in Fort Myers near the Sanibel Causeway. I have seen a lot of gopher tortoises on the island and would like to relocate it there. But first, I have to get it out from under the house. Any Suggestions would be helpful. thank you.

Dear Harlan,
It is illegal for you to capture and relocate the tortoise without a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. You can apply for a permit on-line ( . There are instructions on that site as to how you should proceed.
I suggest that you try to live with the tortoise. He will not damage your house and would be interesting to have as a neighbor. If you have kids or grandkids, they would love it! Please read the tortoise information on the FWC site, as well as the Gopher Tortoise Council site ( and Enchanted Forest gopher tortoise page ( if you are interested.
Feel free to write back if you have questions or concerns.

From: Tamara, Subject: Gopher tortoise nest, Date: June 16, 2014
We live on several hundred acres of forest and crop lands. There are several gophers that live here with us. We protect and leave them alone. This week I saw a female laying her eggs on the open drive up to my horse barn. She covered them up but we would like to make sure the eggs are protected from raccoons, armadillos etc. What do we need to do ?
Thank you,       Tamara

Hi Tamara,
The best thing to do is stay away from the nest so that your scent in the area won’t attract predators. Also, if you have dogs or cats, keep them away as well so they won’t destroy the nest to get the eggs or hatchlings. That is all you can legally do.
In reality, the vast majority of tortoise eggs and hatchlings are a food source for other animals, so the nest may very well get taken. Just do the best you can to keep from making it easy for the predators by leaving it alone, and hope for the best. The incubation time is between 80 and 90 days, depending on the latitude of where you live.

From: Andrew, Subject: Do gopher tortoise live in Magee Mississippi, Date: June 14, 2014

Magee is within the potential range for gopher tortoises.

From: Sandy, Subject: Gopher turtle eggs, Date: June 8, 2014,
A turtle just laid eggs in my neighbors yard right next to the house behind a small bush. Then she left. How long to hatch? And does mother come back?

Do you know what kind of turtle it is? Were the eggs laid on top of the ground or in a hole? What state and county do you live in?

From: Michele, Subject: a question {OK to display shell?}, Date: June 10, 2014
My dad, who is deceased, had a tortoise shell from Mexico in the 1960s. I live in New Jersey. can I display it in my home?       thanks

Hi Michele,
I don’t know the specific legalities, but I think that because it is outside the natural range of the gopher tortoise and it is old, you should be fine to display it.

From: Palm Prints, Subject: Turtle Under House, Date: June 10, 2014
Hi Becky!
I'm in Melbourne and have at least two but maybe three of these guys on my property. The one I'm a bit concerned about is the one that is most certainly under my house.
While I don't want to kick him or her out I'm a bit concerned about the slab and what damage might come about.
I saw on your site you had a probe to see inside the burrows and was curious if you'd be able to come and see in mine.
I am sure there are at least two because one is skidish and the other not so much.
Any advice you could give would be much appreciated!

Unfortunately, the burrow camera is not mine and belongs to NASA; I can’t take it off KSC. However, I have heard of and seen many instances where tortoises dig underneath structures and foundations and I have never experienced any problems. Burrows are dug at a 45 degree angle, so they get deep pretty quickly, leaving lots of dirt between the tunnel and your foundation. A burrow is also the width of the tortoise that dug it, which is not very wide (8” or so).
Feel free to write back if you have any other concerns or questions.

From: Larry, Subject: {Unburied eggs}, Date: June 7, 2014,
We found several tortoise eggs. What do we do? Mother is not burying them. Please advise. Thanks in advance.

If the tortoise just deposited them on the ground and didn’t bury them, they are likely not fertile and she was just shedding them. Just leave them be. Something will probably come along and have a good dinner.

From: James, Subject: Our Gopher Tortoise {not eating}, Date: June 4, 2014
Our Gopher Tortoise, male.
Is not eating regularly and then nothing for days.
Very Active looking to dig and go in s corner and sit for hours. Drinks water.
Inappetence but alert.
Thank you for your suggestions.

Is this a wild tortoise that is in your yard, or a captive animal?

From: Mike, Subject: Fwd: {Found in Louisiana}, Date: May 17, 2014
Becky I found a gopher tortoise,what should I do? In Metairie,la

I suggest you call the Louisiana Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. Find the closest wildlife field office at this website ( and ask them what to do with the tortoise.
If this doesn’t work for some reason, write me back.
Will you please email me some pictures?       Becky

From: 3524460485, Subject: Are the gopher turtles nocturnal?, Date: May 12, 2014

Typically, no. However, because they are reptiles and are cold blooded, their behavior is greatly influenced by the air temperature. In times when it is too hot during the day for them to be comfortable, they have been documented to feed at night. I would also imagine that after several days of bad weather, they might come out at the first opportunity to eat, even if it is dark.
Feel free to write back if you have more questions.Hi Michele, I donít know the specific legalities, but I think that because it is outside the natural range of the gopher tortoise and it is old, you should be fine to display it. BeckyBecky

From: Sandra, Subject: Do gopher turtles make to holes for entry or escape, Date: May 6, 2014

Gopher tortoise burrows have one entrance and no escape hole.

From: thepennypinchers, Subject: injured turtle, Date: May 1, 2014
my husband just found a small gopher turtle on the side of the road near us in Malabar, FL-- that had been injured and had blood on it's face. Took it to two vets who didn't want to mess with it, so we have brought it home till we decide what to do with the poor thing. We had a water turtle for the last 6 years that all of a sudden didn't want to eat, and passed away - crushing us all. Had taken her/him to the vet, she couldn't find anything wrong - "maybe just puberty". Any thoughts as to what we should be doing for it? Feeding it? Have a nice size water lily pond with protective cover for the top against predators. Help !! anne, gary & brian

Dear Anne, Gary, and Brian,
If it is a gopher tortoise, it should not be put into a wet environment. Please try to find a wildlife rehabilitator and take it there. Call your local animal control office to get names of local rehabbers. If you can’t find anyone, write me back and we will go to Plan B. Also, if you can email me some pictures of the turtle, that would be helpful. I will be checking my email over the weekend.

From: sylvia, Subject: helping my resident tortoise, Date: April 24, 2014
  Hi - My friend and I moved to Brooksville from the NY Catskills in January after buying a 2 1/2 acre property - a real fixer-upper, untenanted for 5 years and in need of a lot of TLC. We noted quite a few burrows and carefully worked around them, but didn't see our resident tortoise until the end of March. After that we saw 'Herbert' fairly regularly. Naturally we have no idea if we got the gender right - we try to keep our distance when we see activity so as not to stress him, and wouldn't dream of chasing him down and flipping him over for the plastron check. So we just call him Herbert.
  Anyway, while we are trying to protect our new garden from him (he got to two of my tomato plants before I got them safely behind bars), as well as rabbits and other herbivorous wildlife, we also are trying to make sure we don't impede his making his rounds, and also want to make his life pleasant, so I planted some mesclun mix seeds in the vicinity of the burrow nearest to my garden, and water them when he is not in evidence, so eventually he will have some tender lettuces close by for a snack. My friend also discovered that he likes the occasional french fry
  Are there other plants we could add to the general vicinity that he would enjoy, since my garden is off limits? We have lots of palmetto (I don't know exactly what kinds however) and cactus already growing wild, and I have no idea if we have gopher apples - if not where can I get some? Any other suggestions?
  We operate totally green - organic, no toxins or chemicals of any kind, and try hard to be good neighbors to the local wildlife, so any help will be gratefully accepted!
  So glad I found your site, and if my questions would have been answered with further reading please forgive me - I only just discovered it.
Thanks,       Sylvia

Hi Sylvia,
Attached is a chapter from a workbook written by a friend of mine. I think you will find it to be very helpful. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. And no more French fries!!!!

From: Dale, Subject: Herbicide use, Date: April 26, 2014
I am aware of the 25 ft rule concerning protection of a burrow. May I boom spray herbicides on my farm as long as I keep the herbicide at least 25 ft away from any burrows?

There is no legal restriction. However, please only spray as much and wherever it is absolutely necessary to accomplish what you need to do. You may not be directly impacting tortoises by spraying, but you will certainly be impacting their food resources.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions or need more information.
Thank you,     Becky

From: spaccj, Subject: Gopher tortoise pooing, Date: April 28, 2014
We live in Venice Florida and have a large green belt behind our condo. Lots of turtle/tortoise activity and enjoy it so. However of late these friends have decided to move into our carport to poo and camp out when we are gone. What a mess! Can you suggest a cleaning agent or product for us to use safely to deter them. We seem to be the only house in our circle with is continuous problem.
Thank you,     Maureen

Hi Maureen,
This is a new one! Are you sure it is tortoise poo? If you will send me some pictures, I can make sure.
The only reasons I can think of that they would come into your carport are food and/or shade. Make sure there are no food sources around, such as pet food. The only thing I can think to do about shade is offer them an alternative closer to wherever they are coming from so they stop there. You could block off the carport with cinder blocks or something like that, but it might be very inconvenient for you getting in and out.
Please send pictures and let me know what you do.
Thanks,     Becky

From: 8572089748, {Subject: baby not moving}, Date: April 17, 2014
I found a baby turtle in a parking lot is black with ogange on the back of the shell how i can know if is alive because this morning was moving but no any more is because is a baby, do you think still alive how i can know that.

Please take it to a wildlife rehabilitator, vet, or animal shelter.
Thank you,     Becky

From: Scott n Liz, Subject: Separating Gopher from our dog!, Date: April 15, 2014
  We have a large gopher living on our 3 acre property where we plan to build..we call him Shultz. He/she (haven't looked) seems to have been here a long time. BTW...The den is definitely > 25 ft from homesite.
  My problem is ....our dog! We've been trying to teach her to ignore the little guy & thought we were successful. My neighbor called yesterday saying our dog was 'flipping' the poor thing. He chastised our dog n the turtle RAN back to his hole. This weekend my husband wants to fence off the area to keep them apart. And we'll crate our lab mix when we're at work. My question is how large an area should we allow and what plants should I grow inside it for his diet. We really like the idea of having him but I don't want my dog to hurt him. Or impact his health by limiting his diet. A fence is all I can think of!
  Please help I feel awful. ..He was here long before us!!

Hi Liz,
  I really love that you are enjoying Shultz (after Hogan’s Heroes?), but fencing him in is illegal and not a good idea biologically. My suggestion is that you work on changing the dog's  behavior. If you know any hunters, ask them about techniques used to “snake-proof” hunting dogs; some of those methods might work. You could also call an obedience trainer and ask. There might be some resources on-line if you search on snake-proofing dogs. When I have kept tortoises in the past (for rehab), my dogs eventually got bored and left them alone. However, whether or not that happens depends on the dog’s breed and personality.
  Again, interfering with the tortoise’s movements, feeding it, or making it a captive are all illegal activities. I am pretty sure the dog can be trained to leave Shultz alone. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or need help finding information.

From: Mia, Subject: gopher turtles {Broken shell}, Date: April 12, 2014
What do baby gopher turtles eat? My dog broke its shell. Will it die?

It is very important that you take the tortoise to a wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian as soon as possible. The shell of turtles is an outgrowth of its bones and a break must be treated. I cannot promise that it won’t die, but if it doesn’t get medical treatment, it surely will. If you need help finding a place to take it, please write me back and I will help.

From: CHRIS, Subject: Cost Associated with Turtle Relocation, Date: April 9, 2014
We believe we have a turtle in our garden bed. We've read up on gopher turtles and are amazed at how many nests/tunnels they make and how big the tunnels are. We don't want the turtles harmed, but are also conceded about maintenance of our garden bed, the cement molded curbing potentially collapsing, the house foundation, other nests/tunnels forming on the property. Do you know the approximate costs for FW permit and the relocation costs? How long is the online training video for a residential person? Many thanks.

Hi Jen,
The web link below should give you all of the information you need. Feel free to write me back if you have questions.

From: Connie, Subject: Upside down, Date: April 5, 2014
Guessing that the dogs have been messing with it, I have found it upside down twice. I'm worried about a gopher turtle in my neighborhood will not be able to turn itself back over and die. Are they able to turn their selves back over?

If the tortoise is not on an incline or able to reach something to grab and help it flip, it won’t be able to turn over and could easily die. Please train your dogs to leave it alone or check the area frequently after the dogs have been there.
Thank you,     Becky


From: Josephine, Subject: Size of gopher tortoise, Date: April 5, 2014
I spotted an extremely large gopher tortoise in Flagler beach. It has a massive burrow. I read on the website of their average size and weight. This guy must be some kind of record. How old could he be? Its size ,from a distance, has to be 16+" x 16" and probably heavy. I've been to the Galápagos Islands and seen many large tortoises in the breeding programs and the wild. This guy was not as big as them but impressive just the same. Thoughts.
Thanks, JW

Hi JW,
My guess is that it wasn’t a gopher tortoise, but sulcata tortoise. They are an exotic from Africa that is very popular in the U.S. pet trade; many get released or escape when their owners can’t take care of them properly. They are the 3rd largest tortoise species in the world. If you see it or its burrow again, please take some pictures to help with identification.

From: srussellim, Subject: Buried gopher tortoise, Date: April 5, 2014
A gopher tortoise tunnel on our church property was destroyed last week by FPL for what appears to be no reason at all and seems to have purposely targeted the hole. I believe the tortoises are probably buried inside the mound and could have a nest of eggs. Who do we contact to rescue them? Is Florida Power and Light under any obligation here? We are Port Orange Presbyterian Church in Port Orange, Volusia County, FL. 386-212-6695 Sue

Hi Sue,
Please contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
( and tell them what has happened. It is likely that FPL already has a permit, but they are still not supposed to destroy burrows or entomb tortoises.
Let me know if you don’t have any success with this and we will figure out a Plan B.

From: Jon, Subject: Gopher tortoise {eggs - 2}, Date: April 10, 2014
Im sorry i just got your response. I live in Jacksonville, FL. She buried them in a hole. Please give me some advice on what to do. From reading other posts i see that you are not allowed to mess with them. However, i want them to hatch and i know not all of them may necessarily survive, but i want to give them a fighting chance

The best (and legal) thing to do is leave the nest alone. The more disturbance around it by you or dogs, cats, etc., the more likely a predator is to find it and dig up the eggs.

From: Jon, Subject: Gopher tortoise {eggs in front yard}, Date: April 6, 2014
A gopher tortoise just laid eggs in my front yard. How long are they going to take to hatch?

Did she dig a hole and bury them or lay them on top of the ground? What state and county do you live in?

From: Jodi, Subject: Thank you for your web education, Date: April 3, 2014
My family owns Santa's Christmas Tree Forest in Eustis. We have several gopher tortoise burrows in our field and are trying to better educate our customers on gophers. I just posted a couple of pictures and linked to your website on Facebook, so I just wanted to let you know. If you would have any posters or educational materials, I would love to post them as we have thousands of visitors from October to December!
Thank you,     Jodi Utsman

Hi Jodi,
This is great! I have attached two links to sites (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Gopher Tortoise Council) that have a wide variety of pamphlets, posters, coloring pages for kids, etc., that you can download and print. If you want something in bulk, you may be able to call or email an order.
Let me know if you have any problems. Thanks!!! You are doing a really good thing.

From: byron, Subject: gopher tortoise along powerlines, Date: March 28, 2014
Hi, when we walked our dog along the power lines in our subdivision, we found a gopher tortoise and his burrow. Occasionally the city? workers come and mow this area all the way down the power lines. Although i have read that he needs sunlight for the proper vegetation to grow, we are worried that if he is out of his burrow when they mow that he will get killed. Also, they mow down to less than a foot; it used to be pretty lush and about 3 to 4 feet high. Is it best to leave him alone? I don't like the idea of marking the hole because he is near the community pool and we have found sticks near his burrow where kids have probably been trying to poke him! He may have moved here AFTER they mowed. I don't think they mow it too often, maybe once a year?
Thanks,     Doug and Sue Eckert

Hi Doug and Sue,
My suggestion is that you call the city and tell them there is one, and possibly more, tortoises using the power line corridor. They should adjust the mowing schedule to coincide with when the tortoises will be inside their burrows (cold weather or hot weather). If they are only mowing once a year, it should be in the winter when the temperatures are below 70 degrees during the day.
Write back if you have any more questions. You can also have the city representative email me if that would help.

From: Brooke, Subject: Wat do they eat, Date: April 1, 2014

Low-growing herbs and grasses.     Becky

From: Jonathan, Subject: gopher tortoise methods of infraspecific communication, Date: March 5, 2014
I am attempting to gather information for a report on methods of infraspecific communication of the gopher tortoise and am having great difficulty find any information on the subject. Is there anything you can tell me about how they communicate within their species (i.e.: auditory, sensory, olfactory…) and even more so if you could point me in the direction of a good, credible and most importantly citable source that has information on their communication?

From my own experience, I know that tortoises “hear” vibration and may well communicate with each other via movements and thumping the ground. In “The Natural History and Management of the Gopher Tortoise” by Ray and Pat Ashton, there is a paragraph about low frequency sound communication between tortoises, which is another form of vibration. Tortoises also bob their heads at each other when being aggressive or trying to attract a mate, so there is some visual component to communication as well.
I hope this is helpful.     Becky

Mr T

From: CECEILIA, Subject: Mr T and C in az awake, Date: March 1, 2014
We're in Phx. Az. This is T's second hibernation. Came out last year march 19. This year Feb. 25.,
Don't want to mess up cycle if he needs to go back to bed. I'm just so excited to see him.
Thx for the help.     Ce

Hi Ce,
If he came out on his own, looks ok, and is eating, I say all is good!
My only caution would be that if he lives outside and you have a late cold snap, you might want to bring him in until it passes.
He’s cute. J

From: Dee - NRCS, Subject: climate requirements and range, Date: February 28, 2014
I have seen the “currently accepted habitat range map,” which extends only into southern SC. However, tortoises have been verified outside that range in SC. Do you know why the range does not extend farther north (say, into NC)? Is it climate or the “wiregrass gap” (or both)? If it is climate, which I suspect, what are the climate limits for gopher tortoise survival? This information would be very helpful in constraining habitat suitability.
Thanks so much,     Dee

Hi Dee,
&nbsp; I suspect that temperature is the limiting factor, which directly impacts the kinds and amounts of plants (food) that can survive. Permitting guidelines prohibit relocation of tortoises whenever the overnight temperatures are going to be less than 50 degrees; this intimates that even if tortoises can survive being outside a burrow in those temperatures for a night or two, long-term exposure could be deadly. I would imagine that in the north, the ground gets and stays colder than it does within the tortoises’ geographic range.
&nbsp; Another factor that gets overlooked is the amount of light that is available during the winter months. Even when temperatures are unseasonably warm, animals will stick to their “normal” hibernation/aestivation patterns because of light cues.
&nbsp; Here are some links to gopher tortoise info that you may not have looked at yet. Please let me know if you have other questions.

Help to identify

From: thomas, Subject: Turtles {help identifying), Date: February 24, 2014
I found a baby turtle outside my house but don't know what kind it is many u can identify it by the bottom of it

It is an eastern mud turtle. It is hard for me to say for sure, but it may be an adult. They only get to be 3 or 4 inches long.     Becky

From: Taz, Subject: question re: a young gopher tortoise & box turtle, Date: February 20, 2014
hello. i hope this email finds it way to u. :)
we live in Englewood, FL (just south of Venice.) we have a box turtle as a pet. i believe it's a female. have had her for nearly 11 years. she fit inside the palm of my hand when she found us. about the size of my entire hand now. she lives inside w/ us in a 30gal tank. we used to live in PA. relocated to FL over 2yrs ago. she goes dormant when cold, but VERY active when warm. now, as we live in a warm climate, we've made an outside area for her to 'play' in. mostly shaded/breaks of sunlight. fenced in mulch w/ a shallow water pond (a birdbath w/ no base.) she seems to love it! skurries around. we bring her in at night or when it's much too cool out.
as i was outside gardening, i noticed a new "guest" has made her 'play area' his home! from doing internet research, it's a young gopher tortoise. i think male (but i haven't touch/disturbed him.)
my question is... will the two of them be compatible if i were to put her outside at times? or do we have to keep them separated & basically build HER a new play area as he has claimed hers?! lol
i've read about diseases & such. he looks extremely healthy. although, i know it's sometimes not visible, etc.
thank you so much for any help! :)

Box turtles and gopher tortoises can occur in the same habitats and box turtles have been documented using gopher tortoise burrows. There should be no problem with them hanging out together.
The gopher tortoise is a state listed species and is a candidate for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act. As long as the gopher can come and go from the playpen, you are legal. You also cannot feed it or bring it inside. Just let it be.
Would you please send me a picture of the tortoise? I would like to try to identify it for sure. There are several species of exotic tortoises that could possibly be running around in your area of the state.

From: Arthur, Subject: Do they hibernate, Date: February 12, 2014

Gopher tortoises are cold-blooded reptiles, and when they slow down due to cold weather, it is call aestivation. They might stay in their burrows, not eat, and remain inactive for as long as the temperature is too cold for them to be active. Once things warm up, they will become active again. This is physiologically different than hibernating, which is what mammals do.
Feel free to write back if you have more questions.     Becky

From: Erin, Subject: Question please {mowing}, Date: February 9, 2014

Can you mow on a empty lot with gopher tortoise nests. I don't think so. But what happens and what are the fines if you do? Thank you

You must maintain a 25 ft radius around the burrow.

From: Luke, Subject: 3 gopher turtles, Date: January 13, 2014

    Too near foundation
I live in lee county just purchased a property that has 3 gopher turtles full grown and on the property is a separate 4 car garage building which they have burrowed from left corner in the back under the structure concrete slab and all to the front right and left of the building I suspect this is bad because the wood patio on back was rotting away when we pulled the boards off we could see that the concrete step still under the porch was completely bare underneath meaning kinda just sitting in mid air attached to the house but could fall any moment can these cute little guys be relocated?
Here are 3 pictures kinda showing the structure if you look to the right and down a little bit you can see the tunnel under the concrete step the other hole is at the front right side of the garage where the turtle is at and you can see how big the structure is they tunneled underneath. Will I be allowed to relocate or are they too endangered that they have to live under garage?

Hi Luke,
The tortoises can be relocated, but you need a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The link to the website is here:
Check it out and write back if you need more information.

From: Lisa, Subject: Hard freeze, Date: January 6, 2014
I live in NE FL and have several gopher tortoises and their burrows in my backyard. We love watching them and never approach or feed them but I am concerned for their safety with several freezing nights there anything I can do to protect them?

The range of the gopher tortoise extends all the way to southern South Carolina where it gets colder for longer than here in Florida. The tortoises have evolved with the occurrence of freezing temperatures and will use their burrows for protection.

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?



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