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

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From: Lee Ann, Subject: gopher tortoise may be lost?, Date: September 16, 2020
For the past day (since mid-day yesterday) a gopher tortoise has been on the other side of my fence inside my neighbor's yard. My dog is going crazy every time I let him out trying to get to it.
There is a gopher tortoise sanctuary down the street from where I live. (Oak Park in Tampa Palms)
Is there any chance that this turtle may have gotten lost and was looking for shelter? He's in a bushy area of my neighbor's yard.
I don't want to disturb the little guy but I'm experiencing a real ruckus every time I let my dog out into the back yard.
I've never had one near my house before that appears to be 'settling in' -- even after living here for 31 years.
Thanks for any help!
Best, Lee Ann

Hi Lee Ann,
      About how far is the sanctuary from your house?

From: Patrick, Subject: gopher tortoise {unusual shell}, Date: September 17, 2020
Hi, Im in south ga and have a couple of breeding pairs of tortoises in my yard. I am very familiar with all turtles, but I found a tortoise that had a shell like I have never seen and I was wondering if this is common. On the front ventral area under the head, its very forked. But on the rear, the ventral plates come up and actually overlap the bottom of the carapace.the tail cant even stick out from under the shell because of the two upside down “fangs” if you will. Im sure its handy in a sandy hole, because its basically rounded in the back, but I have just never seen this. Just wondering if its common.

      I have never seen a gopher tortoise (and I’ve seen hundreds) whose shell looked like that. It could be a birth defect, or it could have gotten injured when it was young and the shell just grew abnormally. I really don’t know. If you ever get the chance to take a picture, please send it to me.
      Thanks,       Becky

From: Donald, Subject: Gopher tortoise {on back}, Date: September 5, 2020
a Gopher Tortoise today that was flipped on her back. She was medium size and appeared to have struggled for a while. She is now upright and safely on her way to one of the many burrows on our land. Are they generally successful in righting themselves? This is the first time I have seen one in this predicament. We average 8-12 burrows at any given time that are active and I have never seen anything other than live ones on our 9 acres.
Thank you,       Don, Hernando, FL

Hi Don,
      When gopher tortoises have a serious altercation, they try to flip each other over. Occasionally they are successful, but most of the time, the one flipped can use its arms to flip back over. Sounds like the one you found was on a perfectly flat spot and couldn't reach the ground with any of her paws. She is lucky you came along!

Two very different gopher tortoises. From: Elisabeth, Subject: Gopher tortoise ID, Date: September 7, 2020
A coworker has two very happy tortoises living in her yard. Both have burrows along the front and back fence line. I've attached a picture of them. In the picture the one on the left has the smooth, dark shell I'm familiar with gopher tortoises having. The one on the right isn't familiar to me.
I've lived in FL my whole life and have only ever seen tortoises with smooth shells. What's your opinion?

> Hi,
      The range of coloration and wear on gopher tortoise shells is wide. My guess is that the darker, smoother tortoise is older. You can see the scrape marks on its carapace (top shell) from going under the fence. The scales on its arms are more worn as well, and the gular projection under its chin is quite long, indicating more age. Younger tortoises are more brown and their scutes and scales are sharper.
      Feel free to write back if you have more questions.

GTs breeding From: Ron**, Sent: Wednesday, September 2, 2020, Subject: Re: Fwd: burrow
Thank you.
I had game cameras on several burrows last year in June
Got several pics of a pair breeding
I have a pic taken last week of a tiny (about 1.5" long gopher) near the burrow where breeding took place
Wondering if the baby is from last year or this year

Cool pictures! I love game cameras.
      I would guess that the juvenile tortoise is from last year, or maybe even the year before. Definitely not this year.
            Thanks, Becky

What tortoise is this? From: chet, Subject: Is this a gopher tortoise?, Date: August 31, 2020
Best, Uli

      It's not a gopher tortoise. Google tortoise images and see if anything looks similar. I thought it might be a Russian tortoise. Do you know where it came from?

From: ron**, Subject: dig burrow, Date: August 30, 2020
At what age or size do gopher dig their own burrow?
Ronnie, Escambia county, Alabama

Hi Ronnie,
      When gopher tortoises hatch, they immediately start wandering around looking for food. Some of them will also begin digging a burrow, while others hide out underneath vegetation. It is common to see very small burrows.

From: pitchnstitch, Subject: Gopher Tortoise {encourage to move?}, Date: August 30, 2020
Can they be encouraged to move across the road to a 130 acre free range area out of my yard?

Don't mow your grass.

From: Nayda, Subject: Help?, Date: August 29, 2020
My parents didn't know that this tortoise they picked up was a gopher tortoise. It was in the middle of the road and my mom was about to place it on the other, greener side but my sister texted them to bring it home. She thought that it would be better off living with us than near the road where it would eventually be roadkill.
I was able to convince my mom to put it back but she said it'd have to be tomorrow since she had to show a guy a house (she says tomorrow when I asked her once she comes back-this has all happened today by the way). It starts raining and my sister moves the tortoise in an area that's full of plants.
When it stops raining, my whole family calls for me to get over to them so I do and it turns out that the tortoise is gone. None of us can find them anywhere. I am sending this email in hopes of finding someone who can help us find the tortoise so we can take it back.

Just keep your eyes open and it will hopefully turn up. If it does, take it back to where your folks got it and let it go away from the road. Tell your sister that it is illegal to move or keep gopher tortoises as pets.

From: Becky, Subject: Gopher turtle made home in my front yard., Date: August 28, 2020
We've noticed gopher turtle burrows in our yard for many years. We live in a neighborhood where most yards are close to an acre and we are all respectful of their burrows. Recently, one of these turtles has made a home in the middle of my front yard. We're not so much concerned that it's there but, there's a few things that we need to know to cohabitate without harming the burrow or turtle. We have a large commercial mower to mow our lawn. How far out do we need to be so the weight of the mower doesn't collapse the burrow?
Second, there is a huge fire ant bed about 6 feet from the opening of the burrow. The ants have started traveling to the opening and Running back and forth between the two. How do we treat the original fire ant bed to get rid of the ants Without harming the turtle? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Sincerely, Becky

Hi Becky (I'm Becky, too),
      I am so glad to hear that you are ok with having the tortoise in your yard. Not everyone feels that way.
It is good to keep your grass short and as long as you don't run over the mouth of the burrow with the lawn mower, it should be fine. Burrows get deep pretty fast. If you are concerned, you could weed eat or use a smaller mower near the mouth, just to be safe.
      The best non-chemical way that I know to get rid of the ants is to (carefully!) pour boiling water onto the pile. You may have to do this several times. Once the water cools, which should happen fairly quickly, it won't cause any problems for the tortoise.
      I have attached a chapter from a workbook that was written by a friend of mine. You will probably find the information to be interesting. It is copyrighted material, so use it for you own education only, please. Let me know if you have any questions.

From: Cindi, Subject: Baby Gopher Turtle {horses}, Date: August 21, 2020
Baby GT from horse pasture We found a tiny baby gopher turtle after our horses almost trampled it. We live on 3 wooded/pasture acres in Zephyrhills Florida. We have 4-5 large gopher turtle burroughs on our property. We are very familiar with gopher turtles and know the mothers don't care for the young. We know they are a protected species as we are both wildlife advocates. I've contacted FWC in Lakeland Florida to see what we should do with it as we do not want our horses trampling it. I have it in a large clear plastic container with grass, leaves and water. I am not comfortable letting it go as our horses will definitely step on it. Please see attached picture. Please contact me or I will wait for FWC.
Regards,       Cindi

Hi Cindi,
      I think that FWC and I are going to tell you the same thing, and that is to release it near where you found it. Is there any place on your farm where there are burrows that the horses don't go? Relocating it is illegal and also not good for the tortoise. My suggestion is that you wish it good luck and let it go into a burrow. Besides, if you remove all of the kids, someday there won't be any tortoises left there.

From: Kathleen, Subject: Gopher Tortoise in Corner, Date: August 20, 2020
We live in a condo which has a U shaped courtyard in the center of the building. There is a gopher tortoise on the concrete floor with his or her nose pointed into a concrete corner. It would need to turn around 180 degrees and walk 20-30 yards to get out of the courtyard.
Should we move it? Leave it alone? If so, for how long?

Hi Kathy,
      If the tortoise is still there, will you take a picture and send it to me, please?
      Thanks,       Becky

From: lance, Subject: I stand corrected on gopher tortoise laws in florida, Date: August 16, 2020
So I thought the law was you couldn't run over a gopher tortoise burrow with a tractor yet when they directly ran over three burrows while moving the lot next door FWC told me it was legal. The owner of a 3 acre empty lot hired someone to bush hog the lot using a heavy duty tractor and he directly ran over all three burrows and collapsed two of them. I called FWC and the officers came out and said I was in the wrong, they said the tortoises can burrow out and it is only against the law if you are tilling the soil. I have read almost every post on here and thought it was illegal to run over a burrow, I was made to look a fool for complaining.

Please tell me what county you are located in.
     Thanks,      Becky

From: Jeri, Date: August 15, 2020, Subject: Turtle {digging under house}
Turtle is digging under snowbird neighbors house who can i call

Your neighbors.
      They are the only ones that can initiate having the tortoise relocated if that is what they wish to do.

From: bunny, Subject: toenail loss, Date: August 14, 2020
We rescued a Gopher tortoise 55 years ago.  Today I found a toenail that has fallen off.  Should I be concerned ? 

Keep an eye on the area for puffiness, redness, tenderness, or other signs of infection. If nothing looks out of the ordinary, you are probably ok. You could always take it to a wildlife rehabilitator or vet just to make sure.

* bunny: August 14, 2020
Thanks for the tip!   It looks like there is a tiny new nail growing already ? It is off his back foot. Nice of you to respond! Thanks !

From: Vasco, Subject: Relocate cost of tortoises, Date: August 12, 2020
Hi. What is the average cost to relocate 2 small tortoises from a lot in port Charlotte fla.

I don't have that information, but suggest you look at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tortoise permitting website ( Also, you might call your region's (southwest) tortoise biologist Kyle Brown at 863-648-3200.
      Write back if you have more questions.

Photo of baby gopher tortoise From: Scott, Subject: {photo of baby}, Date: August 11, 2020

Very cool! If you haven't already, please release it where you found it into a burrow or under some vegetation out of the sun.
      Thanks,       Becky

From: mitchell, Date: August 11, 2020, Subject: Disease
I have several tortoises on my property. One has a burrow into my septic drainfield. It has been there for 7 or 8 years and I would think it would be unhealthy for the tortoise. should I move it?
Thanks Mitch

Hi Mitch,
      It is highly unlikely that you could get a permit to move the tortoise. Besides, I typically trust them to know what's best. If it's been there 7 or 8 years and still appears to be healthy, there probably isn't an issue.
Thanks for caring!

From: Phyllis, Subject: male gopher turtle has female gopher held prisoner in her burrow, Date: August 10, 2020
Is this normal for a male gopher. He sits all day either on top the burrow or in its entrance keeping the female from coming out of the burrow When he arrived the female did not want him. I live in north Florida and this is happening in my back yard on side of my septic hill.

      Yes, this is normal behavior One of them will eventually give up. He'll go away or she'll submit to mating. If he wins, keep your eyes open because you might have hatchling tortoises around next spring.

From: Yolanda, Date: August 10, 2020, Subject: Timeframe from mating to egg laying
We have a female gopher tortoise with a burrow in our yard.  I have seen her mating on three separate occasions.  How long before she'll lay eggs?
Thank you! Yolanda
Hi Yolanda,
      That is really hard to say. She could lay them now, but it is pretty late in the season. They are capable of holding fertilized eggs through the winter and lay them in the spring. Part of this depends on where (what latitude) they are located. What state and city are you in?

From: Marilyn, Subject: gopher tortoise in Hobe sound, Date: August 10, 2020
I've recently purchased a ? acre property in Hobe sound near Johnathan Dickinson Park. We've had the lot surveyed and there was 2 inactive burrows listed with 1 potential turtle.
I want to move the turtle safely if one is actually on the property but I want more proof that one is currently living there as the process is very expensive to relocate them.
Is there anything I can ask the surveying environmentalist for more proof?
Thank you, Marilyn

Hi Marilyn,
      Go to It has information that I think you will find useful. You are in the South regional district of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; their regional gopher tortoise biologist is Momoka Maeda (561-625-5122). She should be able to answer your questions.
      If none of that turns out to be helpful, write me back.

From: Beverly, Date: August 9, 2020, Subject: Found 2 Gopher tortoise {dangerous street}
Good evening,
On Saturday I was driving in an area called Crane's Roost near my home and saw a large Gopher Tortoise crawling over the curb in order to cross the road. The area he was in is in between a retention pond which is heavily used by pedestrians, and apartment complexes. I drove around and the only place he may have come from is an active construction site. There is no wooded or sandy area. Maybe he was dropped off at the pond? I was going to move him to the other side of the street, but there was only a fenced in apartment complex and an office park. It's right next to I-4 and the Eyesore. This is in Altamonte Springs Florida.
I think he would have been in dire straits if I left him so I brought him home and he's in my yard. I want to return him but am very worried about his safety. I Googled Gopher Tortoises when I got home and found out I should not have picked him up!
Yesterday I was coming back from the same area I found the tortoise in because I found a Gopher Tortoise Agent lives in that very area ( but has not returned my calls yet) and found another, much bigger one walking near my neighborhood. As it turns out he was right next to a Maitland police officers house so I asked the officer if he'd ever seen a tortoise there before. He said he sees turtles run over often at that location. I told him the story of finding another one and he said maybe for it's safety I should put this one in my yard, too. He said kids would probably take the tortoise if I left it as Lake Orienta Elementary is right there.
Now I have two and am completely panicky as to what to do?? What do I do?
Thank you so much,       Beverley

Hi Beverley,
This is a tough, but common situation. It is illegal to pick them up and move them, but it is very difficult for any compassionate person to ignore an obviously bad situation.
Continue trying to contact the authorized agent. I would also contact Samantha Cobble (352-732-1225); she is the gopher tortoise biologist for your region. If neither of these options produce any results, write me back and we'll devise Plan B.
      Keep me posted.       Becky

From: c m, Subject: {cat attack}, Date: August 7, 2020
Hi I just stopped my cat from attacking what looked to be a gopher, the animal was running away sideways and kept falling over I'm wondering if he will be ok my cat must've swiped at him and I didn't see. I feel so bad he's having a hard time walking straight and not falling over.

If you see the tortoise again and it still looks injured, please pick it up and take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. If you need help finding a place to take it, write me back.
      Thanks,       Becky

From: Lucy, Subject: Gopher turtle {den caved in}, Date: August 7, 2020
Can a turtle dig out of den if the entrance has caved in completely? I'm in Georgia.

There have been studies done on that and it is amazing what tortoises can dig their way out of when they have to. The problem is that being trapped inside a burrow causes them to produce excessive amounts of stress hormones, and that's not good. If you can gently, carefully dig the opening of the burrow out, it might make their escape easier. Write back if you have more questions or concerns.

From: Melissa, Subject: How do I prevent my tortoise from digging into the neighbors yard?, Date: August 1, 2020

      If you are talking about a gopher tortoise, it's not "your" tortoise. It is illegal for you to keep it confined or discourage it from going anywhere it wants to go. If it's not a gopher tortoise, write me back and I will see what I can suggest.

From: Susan, Subject: Help--information needed {Coachella Valley, CA}, Date: July 19, 2020
My daughter was able to adopt a large tortoise (maybe 15 lbs.) from the Coachella Valley area (at the time maybe 105 degrees) but bring it home to live with us in  Southern Ca coastal region‹where it is usually 85 or a little hotter.
I think he is confused. Though it is summertime here, too, he wants to sleep a lot here.  He seems to eat well and get exercise because we move him daily from his overnight safety area in our house terrarium‹to a large outdoor yard,  But he also just wants to sleep.
Do I need to get some kind of heat lamp or something?

      I work with gopher tortoises in the southeast U.S. and am not qualified to answer your question. Please contact the Desert Tortoise Council ( and they will be able to help you.

From: Catherine, Subject: Gopher Turtle {day & night?}, Date: July 9, 2020
I want to know if the gophers are active day and night.
Thank you! Cathy

Hi Cathy,
      Gopher tortoises are typically active during the day. However, they have been documented (and I have seen this myself) walking around and feeding at night, particularly during the hot months.

From: Lynn, Subject: size of tortoise den, Date: July 6, 2020
Dear Becky,
Some years ago we had a gopher tortoise dig a burrow close to our house. She/he is long gone but now that corner of the house is sinking. Is it possible the den is big enough to undermine that corner of the house? Thank you for any info you can provide,

Hi Lynn,
      If the tortoise was still living there and keeping the burrow maintained, I would say that there would not be an undermining issue. However, if water is flowing into the old hole, you could have a problem. I would definitely get it checked out.

Large gopher tortoise blocking smaller one. From: ocalaeeyore, Subject: Larger tortoises blocking smaller one/Indian River Couty, FL, Date: July 4, 2020
Have a smaller tortoise that has lived on property for a couple of years.  Larger ones would come on property to eat.  Last couple of days larger ones have been blocking entrance to burrow with smaller one inside.  Why?  Photo of smaller one in borrow with larger one near it.

It sounds like maybe the smaller one is a female and there are males coming to visit. I'm just guessing, but if  you keep watching, you may be able to figure it out.
      Keep me posted!       Becky

From: Jane, Subject: Gopher Tortoise in Atlanta, Date: July 5, 2020
For years I have seen Gopher Tortoises in my yard.  July 2nd, a female was laying eggs.  I have seen two mating, a mother and baby, and many single sightings over the 26 years living here.  If this information is of interest to anyone I would be happy to share.
Thank you. Jane

I am always interested in pictures to use in educational presentations. If you have some good ones, send them to me. I will put  your first initial and last name on them and use them in talks.

Is this a gopher tortoise? From: Diane, Subject: Is this a Gopher Tortoise?, Date: July 5, 2020
Found this little guy while mowing our backyard and then found a small burrow.
Is this a Gopher Tortoise?
This was found in West Melbourne, Florida in Brevard County.
Thank you. Diane

Yes, it is a gopher tortoise. I have attached a chapter from a book written by a friend of mine that I think you will find interesting. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. Feel free to write me back if you have any more questions.

From: Gary, June 25, 2020, Subject: {sensitive environmental property}
Can you build a 1055 home subdivision on sensitive environmental property.  Gophers are known to be plentiful here as well as owls nesting in old growth oak trees.  To late for the owls, trees were removed without proper permits. 

Unfortunately, developers can do pretty much whatever they want with enough money. The only thing I can suggest is that you check on their permits. If the property is in Florida, they can't legally clear the land without relocating the tortoises. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website can tell you if the developer has a tortoise relocation permit.
This is exactly why land conservation is so important. The pieces and parts of unprotected land are getting whittled away. Putting land into protected status (city, county, state, federal) is the only way we will have any habitat left for wildlife. Supporting organizations like Nature Conservancy is crucial to making habitat protection happen, as is electing officials that realize there are things that make life good besides money.

From: Christy, Subject: Horses, Dogs and GTs, Date: June 20, 2020
I have 2 large retrievers, horses and 10 acres. We have a backyard area fenced as well. We have a number of GTs living on the property, mainly in the back pastures. I've had some leg injuries where the horses have punched through the tops of the burrows. Twice I've taken GTs to a rehab place for puncture holes when my dogs 'retrieved' them. And I've pulled a baby out of the dogs mouth once. The dogs do go outside of the backyard when I'm out with them.
Recently however a couple are trying to move in with us. A mid sized one has built a burrow going from the outside of the backyard going into the backyard under the fence. The entrance has enlarged so that the dogs can get to the opening so I've put a welcome mat over the part of the entrance inside the yard. (One of the previous punctures were from a similar situation.) Another (I think, slightly larger) has dug a burrow next to the garage under the meter box.

My questions:
• Short of having a multitude of 25' circles of fencing around the burrows, any ideas for protecting the burrows/tortoises from the horses out in the pasture? And vice versa.
• Ideas for making the area around the house less attractive?
• Suggestions for good neighborship between dogs and GTs?
Thanks, Christy

Hi Christy,
      When I first started reading your post, I thought for sure you were going to ask me how to remove the tortoises from your property. I am so glad that you want to have good "neighborship". Here are some suggestions to try; if they don't work, let me know and we'll come up with a Plan B.
      I have heard that putting pin flags around the burrows will "warn" the horses to beware. The flags should not be put in the mouth of the burrow (the tortoises will just knock them over going in and out) and they don't have to be very far behind the burrow because the burrow will get too deep to be collapsed by a horse stepping on it pretty quickly. You can get pin flags at most any hardware store.
      Not sure what to say about the dogs. You can try to train them or keep them physically separated from the tortoises. Not sure if either of those is a realistic option. When I had a tortoise for awhile at my house for rehab, my dog eventually got used to it and left it alone. Of course, he was a poodle mix, not a retriever. :-)
      As far as your yard goes, tortoises like to eat short grass, but I don't know if you want to let the grass in your yard get too long.
      You could bury something 12-18 inches in the ground around the fence perimeter so they can't dig under.
      I hope at least some of this is helpful. Thanks again for not wanting to evict the tortoises. Let me know how it goes.

From: diane, Subject: Armadillos, Date: June 13, 2020
I have read that armadillos eat the Gopher tortoise eggs. Do they scare away or harm the tortoise in any other way?

Armadillos don't intentionally scare or hunt tortoises, but they do mess up their burrows if they use them. It is very unusual for a tortoise to reoccupy a burrow once an armadillo has moved in, even if it doesn't stay.

From: diane, Subject: Re: Fwd: Armadillos, Date: June 15, 2020
Oh that is so sad to hear. We will be very sorry if out little friend doesn't come back. Armadillos are making a strong appearance in the burrow areas.

If the tortoise likes the area and the armadillos don't tear it up too badly, it will probably just dig another burrow. I hope so!

From: Long Tribe, Subject: Human Benefits, Date: June 10, 2020
How are Gopher Tortoises beneficial to humans?

That is an interesting question. Years ago, before gopher tortoises were protected by the various states and the Endangered Species Act, they were a source of food for many people. Now the benefits that we have from gopher tortoises are not as direct, but just as important. They are an integral part of the landscape and ecology where they occur, mostly because their burrows provide homes and/or refugia for over 300 different types of animals. Because of that, they have been designated a "keystone species"; if gopher tortoises are removed or disappear from an area, the habitat is radically changed, and not for the better.
      I think the best answer to your question is that gopher tortoises and humans are both part of the complicated web of life we have on Earth, and all of the parts are necessary for everyone's health and well-being.

From: Marta, Subject: How can I tell what kind of turtle / tortoise knocked on my door?, Date: June 10, 2020
To me it looks like a Gopher Tortoise, but I know nothing about turtles or tortoise, she / he is beautiful in color,
I would say about 12-14" long and about 9-10" wide, the underneath is a very pretty orangy color.
She/he came in about 9pm last week and knocked (thumped) on my door twice (I live in a very small apartment) I was watching tv when I heard it
I opened the door to find this huge turtle on my sidewalk, and because I had no idea where it came from, I took it and put it in my back yard, because there are lots of dogs that runs the streets here, and didn't want the poor stray turtle to be hurt.
I wish I could send you pictures but don't know how to send them. I live in Miami FL

      It is really difficult for me to identify the turtle without some pictures. However, from the size of it, I would guess it is an African spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata). Look at the website link below for information and Google some pictures for yourself to see if your turtle looks like a spurred tortoise.
If it is an African spurred tortoise, it may have escaped from someone and they would be happy to get it back. Keeping an spurred tortoise is difficult at best, especially if you have a small yard. Please read some information, see if you can find the owner, and if you need help figuring out what to do with it, write me back. Please do not release it.
If you can get someone to help you email me some pictures, that would be great.
      Thanks,       Becky

From: Cassandra, Subject: How long will Gopher Tortoise stay in burrow?, Date: June 5, 2020
Greetings, I live in Central Florida. A GT wandered into our yard last weekend. I was excited to see him and more excited when he started digging a burrow.
The burrow is near a fence and I hung up a camera so I could watch him.
He came out last Tuesday and I think he went right back in quickly so the camera didn't have time to reset to see him go in (if that makes sense to you).
Anyway, I've been waiting to see him again and he has not come out. It's been 10 days. My question to you is: Is this possible?
From everything I've read this is the time they are most active and I thought we'd see him come out every day. It's been warm here so maybe he is more comfy underground?
We have a yard full of all kinds of weeds and grasses that would be appealing to him. I was leaving out blueberries and watermelon for him but the crows keep eating it.
I've gotten down on my hands and knees with flashlight trying to see if I can see him. No luck there. Could it be possible he is still in there? How long before he will come out again?
Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to answer. I would truly love to host a GT on our property.
Best regards, Cassandra

Hi Cassandra,
      We know from radiotracking data that in natural situations, each tortoise digs and uses multiple burrows. Sometimes if their habitat is developed and there is not room, they might only use one burrow, but that is not typical. My guess is that your tortoise is now staying somewhere else nearby, and will likely return sometime. The use of your particular burrow may depend on temperature, rainfall, season, or any number of other variables.
      Keep your eyes open and he hopefully will return. Feel free to write back if you have other questions.

From: Jennifer, Subject: Big guy gopher turtle, Date: June 4, 2020
We had a big gopher turtle he has his burrow under a big oak tree he has been around at least 3years.We just had some tree work. Done and they were working around his hole and I haven't seen him now for two days He is always out on his porch in the am and evening he can get out of the yard but he always seems to stay in and eat in the yard will he come back or is his gone for good

I can't say for sure, but he is probably hiding out inside the burrow. If not, he likely will return when he feels like the coast is clear.

From: vicki, Subject: gopher tortoise found alive but wont move, Date: June 4, 2020
WE saw a gopher tortoise last night on the golf cart trail it was raining he wasnt moving this morning he was still there had not moved. I drove by and thought he was gone at about 3pm later at 6:30 we walked back there and saw him a foot off the gold cart path asleep but not moving, he will open eyes, we have called the local rescue, but they have not called back we are worried about him. nothing looks wrong he has some crusty white around his mouth, he seems very weak. he will move his arms a little.
Hope you might have some advice,
Thanks, Vicki

Lots of people have been writing me and saying that they are seeing tortoises sitting outside their burrows for days, even weeks, at a time. I am not sure why this is happening, but it may have to do with temperature, humidity, or all of the rain we have been getting.
      If you feel like the tortoise is ill, you could take it to a wildlife rehabilitator to be checked. Otherwise, I would let it be.
Feel free to write me back if you have other questions or concerns.

From: Wendy, Subject: Restless Gopher Tortoise- Seminole County, FL, Date: June 4, 2020
We have a gopher tortoise who has made our fenced backyard her home for the past couple of years, actually she was here when we purchased the house and we're not sure how long she's been here. She has began to act strangely staying out of her hole and parking herself in the corner of the yard by the fence gate. She seems like she wants to get out of the yard but we can't leave the fence gate open for her because we have dogs and a pool. I'm not sure what to do. I don't want to leave her trapped if she's ready to relocate but don't want to let her out with no way back to her burrow either. Have you seen or heard of this kind of behavior before?
Thank you, I look forward to your insight and response. 

I have had several people over the last couple of weeks tell me that they have been seeing tortoises sitting outside the burrow for days, even weeks, at a time. Maybe it has something to do with temperature or humidity, or all of the rain we have been getting. I really don't know.
      If your fence does not penetrate beneath the ground, if the tortoise wants out, she will dig out. I would keep an eye on her, but let her be. If she stops eating or otherwise looks ill, write me back, or take her to a wildlife rehabilitator in your area.
      Thank you,       Becky

From: Lisa, Subject: {limbs over hole}, Date: June 4, 2020
If someone puts limbs over a gophers holes does it kill them

In most cases, a gopher tortoise can dig out or around. Feel free to send me some pictures and I might be able to tell you more.

From: Cynthia Beaver, Subject: Gopher turtle in backyard, Date: June 3, 2020
There is a really big turtle in my backyard. It has a red mark on his shell.
Right now he's just walking around. I understand we shud do nothing, just checking that's the correct path. 

If it's just walking around your yard and can get out on its own, just let it be. If the turtle is still there, send me some pictures, please.

From: Christina, Subject: New to Gopher Tortoises {in same spot}, Date: May 31, 2020
Good Morning
Yesterday evening when we went to take our dogs out we noticed a gopher tortoise up against our back porch. We have not touched it or bothered it in any way and are not exactly sure when it appeared yesterday other than sometime between 12-5pm. This morning we got up and it is still in the same spot. It will move its head in and out and wiggle its legs a bit. We just want to make sure it is normal for there to be no other movement for such a long time. There is a little shade from our roof. Is there anything else we should look for before reporting it as sick?

If the tortoise is still there, please take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. If you need help finding one, please write me back.

From: Cynthia, Subject: new gopher turtle eggs, Date: May 31, 2020
this morning while walking my older dog I came across a gopher turtle, when I attempted to move it, to protect it from my younger dogs, I saw that it had laid at least three (3) eggs right next to my front fence. I have blocked off for now but I'm not sure what to do next. Should I build a cage around the nest?

Hi Cynthia,
      When a tortoise lays eggs, it typically digs a 6 ­ 8 inch hole and buries the eggs in it. If she laid the eggs on the ground, they probably weren't fertile anyway and she just shed them. Just let them be and somebody will probably come along and eat them, which is ok.

From: Cynthia, Subject: Gopher turtle in backyard, Date: May 31, 2020
There is a really big turtle in my backyard. It has a red mark on his shell.
Right now he's just walking around. I understand we shud do nothing, just checking that's the correct path. 

If it's just walking around your yard and can get out on its own, just let it be. If the turtle is still there, send me some pictures, please.

From: katielee87, Subject: Sleepy Gopher Tortoise, Date: May 29, 2020
For the past three weeks or so I've had a tortoise traveling back and forth between my yard and my neighbors yard. Originally, I thought it was lingering to eat fallen surinam cherries, but it's stayed in my yard for about 4 or 5 days now and hasn't moved hardly at all. In fact, it's huddled up in a corner where my house meets the fence to the back yard. I check on it usually when I get home from work around 5:30-6 and it almost always has it's eyes closed. I don't see any signs of injury and I also don't see a burrow anywhere. Is this normal? Also, it's been raining very hard lately and the tortoise is right next to a gutter drain. What should I do?
Thank you for your help, Kate

Dear Kate,
      TIs the tortoise still there? If so, please take some pictures of it and email them to me. That behavior sounds unusual and I want to make sure it's a gopher tortoise.
      Thanks,       Becky

From: Chris, Subject: Help identifying baby found in yard, Date: May 28, 2020
Found this little guy Hello,
We found this baby in our yard this evening and were wondering what if you knew what it might be?

It's hard for me to tell how big it is from the picture, but I think it is an adult striped mud turtle (Kinosternon baurii).

From: Nancy, Subject: Baby gopher turtle, Date: May 28, 2020
We have a baby gopher turtle has made a home in my front flower bed. The problem is the fire ants are all over the den now. What can I do to get rid of the ants? Don't want them to hurt the turtle. The turtle is only about 4" long he's a little guy.

      The trick to dealing with fire ants around a tortoise is killing them and not hurting it. Avoid using "bait" to attract the ants because it might also attract the tortoise. In order to totally get rid of the ants (and the mound), you have to kill the queen. This link ( has some good suggestions; you can decide what might work best given your resources and specific situation. Look over these and write me back if you have questions. Also please let me know what works and what doesn't so I can be smarter next time somebody asks.
      Thanks,       Becky

From: Thomas, Subject: {egg size}, Date: May 27, 2020
How big are their eggs

About the size of a ping pong ball.

From: Stacy, Subject: Eggs in my yard, Date: May 26, 2020, Hi,
Today a gopher tortoise dug a hole next to my garden. I didn't know why, and I filled the hole back in.
Then the turtle walked a few steps and stopped, eggs started coming out and I knew I had inadvertently filled in the hole where they were supposed to go. I was so sorry & I tried to dig another under where they were coming out. I was able to but I don't think it was as deep.
Should I cover them with more soil or leave them alone. It's very sandy soil & im afraid they aren't deep enough.
How deep should they be?
I'm going to call FWC tomorrow but as we're in the "Corona-pandemic", I want to protect the eggs as best I can.
Thank you for info Stacy Jo

Hi Stacy Jo,
      The typical tortoise nest hole is 6 ­ 8 inches deep. Unless the FWC person tells you differently, I would not disturb the eggs to make the nest deeper (reptile eggs are not like bird eggs that need to be turned). Just cover them, loosely pack the soil, wish them luck, and leave them be. If you have dogs and/or cats, try to keep them away from the area. The egg incubation period is 80 ­ 110 days, depending on where you are located. If the nest doesn't make it and the eggs don't hatch, the tortoise has multiple opportunities to try again.
      You accidently made a mistake and it's ok. Thanks for caring. Feel free to write back if you have more questions.

From: Master Shake, Subject: Most likely to be in their burrows?, Date: May 25, 2020
Hello I've gota looming tree over my house being threatened by the dang kudzu . I need to do a lot of clearing but there are a number of baby tortioses near by due to a new tortoise habitat next door. Is there a time of day when they are more likely to be in their burrows? I want to make sure I dont crunch them with the mower. Brush too thick to see through

Tortoises are typically in their burrows at night, but that is not a great time for yard work. This time of year, the middle of the day is pretty safe because it so hot. Avoid the mid-morning and late afternoon/evening. However, whenever you do it, be really careful because baby tortoises don't always dig burrows and will use vegetation or other debris as a den site.
      Do the best you can. I am definitely not a kudzu fan and wish you luck!

From: J B, Subject: Baby gophers tortoise, Date: May 24, 2020
We live in Hernando county Florida.
Twice our cat has brought baby tortoise home. They were not injured and we put them in the woods . We are not sure which burrow they came from. What should we do going forward? Will they be safe at a burrow of any adult ?
Thank you. Janice

Hi Janice,
      Please try to convince your cat to leave the tortoises (and other wildlife) alone. I know that is easier said than done, and the best solution is to keep the cat inside. However, you can release the baby tortoises as close to where they came from and any adult burrow will be fine.
      Thank you,       Becky

From: CRYSTAL, Subject: Not sure if I have a Gopher Tortoise, Date: May 21, 2020
small pet turtle I just took in a small tortoise whose owner passed away. I know nothing about it. I have rescued box turtles and snapping turtles, but this guy is very different.

      Do you know where the previous owner got the tortoise? I am pretty sure it is an African spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata; the genus name recently changed from Geochelone). They are an exotic species native to Africa, but are often sold in pet stores in the U.S. If you are considering keeping it, please do your research. It is the 3rd largest tortoise species in the world, needs a fair amount of room to be healthy, and digs huge holes. Keeping one is not for the faint-hearted or unprepared. Also, depending on how old you are, it might potentially outlive you. I have attached a link to a website with information.
      If you decide not to keep it, please do not release it. Try to fine a zoo, nature center, reptile rescue, or private reptile enthusiast (that knows what they are getting into) to take it. If you just let it go, it will likely die, or it will use resources that our native wildlife need.
      Let me know if you have questions or if I can help.

From: Charlyne, Subject: Gopher tortoise {invading burrows}, Date: May 19, 2020
We have a few gopher tortoises in our yard. It is common for one tortoise to invade the burrow of another? The tortoise quickly pushed the invader out. Do they actually fight for burrows?

      Gopher tortoises dig several burrows of their own and will also use other tortoise's burrows. It is not unusual to have more than one tortoise in a burrow at once and that appears to be ok with them sometimes. Other times, the "owner" or whoever is bigger will kick the other one out. One time, I was using a burrow camera and found three juvenile tortoises in one burrow.
      If there's something I've learned about tortoises after all of these years, it's that they aren't good about following our rules.
      Feel free to write back if you have more questions.

From: Vincent, Subject: Unusual turtle color, Date: May 19, 2020
box turtle My daughter helped this one across the road. Probably a box turtle but the coloring is unique. Reminded me of gopher turtles from South Georgia. We are in Douglas County Georgia.
What your assessment?

Hi Vincent,
      It is a juvenile box turtle. If you Google it, you will find that some of the box turtles are brown when they are young, especially ones up in your area. You can tell it's not an adult yet by the size.
Thank your daughter for helping!
      Feel free to write back if you have more questions.

From: Kimberly, Subject: Flagged burrows on Fl turnpike, Date: May 18, 2020
I drive the turnpike daily. There is a part that was cut through a sand hill near where Lake County becomes Orange County. Newer developments on either side of the cut have resulted in many tortoises relocating to the embankment that faces the turnpike. Recently, these burrows have been orange flagged.
With all the new development going on around Minneola, the turnpike will need to be widened. These tortoises are doomed where they are. Are these burrows marked for research, removal, or construction?
Thank you

I suggest you contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ( They will know if a permit has been issued for the tortoises to be relocated because of construction or any other reason.
      Feel free to contact me if you don't get any answers or have other questions. Thanks for caring.

From: Deal, Subject: Nest in my yard, Date: May 17, 2020
nest in my yard Yes a nest in my yard. Wesley Chapel Pasco County Fl
What and how should I protect and help keep the nest safe?

That is so cool! The biggest danger is from animals that can dig up the nest. Please stay away from the nest area because your scent might attract predators (raccoons, dogs, cats, etc.). Make sure your pets or other dogs and cats stay away. That really is about all you can do. The incubation time for the eggs is between 80 and 110 days; your time will be more toward the short end because you are in central Florida. Keep your eyes open and you might get lucky enough to see some kids hatch! However, don't be too disappointed if the nest get depredated regardless of your efforts ­ most nests do.
      Keep me posted!       Becky

From: Violetmarie, Date: May 17, 2020, Subject: How can I move it from under my house?
I have a large one living under my house. It comes out periodically but is going to create a problem because it is undermining the concrete slab under my step deck.
Thanks for any help you can provide. I live in Leesburg FL

Hello Vi,
      Gopher tortoises often dig burrows against or under structures. I think it is because the dirt is already soft there and makes for easy digging. Typically, as soon as the tortoise hits concrete, it ends the burrow there or takes a turn. Structural damage is rare. However, if you feel like the tortoise needs to be relocated, contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ( You can apply for a permit to legally relocate the tortoise.

From: Joyce, Subject: Relocation, Date: May 16, 2020
I found a gopher tortoise in a busy hwy. so I took it to a large nature park.I know you're not supposed to but I would never pass any animal in the highway to let it get killed.Someone said that they will leave the new location and try to find their way home.Is that true? What is the correct way since the officials do nothing?

Followup email at 6:15pm:
Hernando, Florida
I found one in a busy hwy & took it to a large nature conservancy.Theres no way Id leave any animal in a hwy to suffer & die.Someone said they always try to get back to their original home. Is that true? How do the experts do it? Thank you,Joyce in Central Florida 

Gopher tortoises are not particularly intelligent and live by instinct. They will usually try to find their way home, which is one of the reasons that picking a tortoise up and taking it somewhere is illegal. Other reasons are that diseases could be introduced into the population where the tortoise is released, the pecking order of the population where the tortoise is released can be disrupted, and a new mouth to be fed can stress the amount of food resources. You are right in saying that officials frequently do nothing; that often is the best thing to do. Moving a tortoise without the restrictions that accompany getting a permit may save that one animal, but it doesn't help save the species. Nobody wants to see a squashed tortoise, but the long-term implications are worse.
      If/when you see another tortoise crossing the road, please move it out of harm's way to the side of the road, pat it on its head, wish it luck, and go on your way.
      Thanks,       Becky

From: Jay, Subject: Exposed eggs, Date: May 13, 2020
Today, I found my resident gopher tortoise laying eggs in my back yard. A very cool thing to witness. Well, after watching for a little while, I went out for the day and when I came back and checked out the nest, I found that she hadn't covered them very well. I'm wondering if it's okay for me to cover the exposed eggs with about an inch of sandy soil. I'm afraid the local raccoons who frequent my yard will find them.
Is it legal for me to cover them over to try and hide them?
I really don't think putting chicken wire round them will deter the raccoons. When they see something edible they want, they are very determined animals.
Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks, Jay

Hi Jay,
      Typically when a tortoise lays eggs, they dig a hole 6 ­ 8 inches deep, deposit the eggs, and then cover the hole. If the tortoise lays the eggs on top of the ground, it is probably because she is young and new at the nesting process or the eggs are infertile. It doesn't hurt to cover them (I could be wrong!), but they aren't likely going to hatch.
      Feel free to write back!

From: Robbie, Subject: Tortoise near my house, Date: May 11, 2020
Florida softshell turtle We saw a large tortoise facing away from the road with a mound of dirt in front of her. We live in Punta Gorda FL.
Do the gopher tortoise lay their eggs inside their burrow and stay in there or just dig a nest and bury the eggs elsewhere?
The next day I walked closer towards the nest and when I was 2 steps away from it I heard thumping underground at the opening. I left didn't want to scare her.
Is she warning a would be predator off or just living in the burrow?
This is an open field between our road and the mango grove, then the open gulf.
Half mile down a new home is being built so I assume eventually this field will get developed. :((
Does someone need to be notified where the nest is so we can try to protect ?
Also saw another mound near a utility pole near our area and wondered if that needs to be marked. It was definitely a nest.
Today I stopped and urged a gopher tortoise across and off the road and into the woods the way he was headed. He was very small and young, about 1 yr. hope he makes it!!!
Thank you!! Robbie

Hi Robbie,
      Gopher tortoises dig long (typically 10 ­ 15 ft) burrows at an angle into the ground. This is where they spend the vast majority of their time. The mound of dirt in front of the burrow (the apron) is what they removed in the digging process. Usually, each tortoise has several burrows that it uses within its home range.
      When they lay eggs, the female digs a small hole around 6 inches deep straight down. She lays the eggs in the hole and then fills it in with dirt. Often the nest cavity is in the apron, but not always.
      The thumping you heard from inside the burrow as you approached probably was a "warning". Tortoises often bob their heads at each other when they think they are being intruded upon.
      You can report your burrow findings to your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ( Make sure you contact them if you see signs of development. The developer is required to relocated tortoises before land clearing, but that doesn't always happen unless someone like you is paying attention.
      Feel free to write back if you have more questions.
From: Chelsea, Subject: Gopher tortoise moved in, Date: May 9, 2020
Just a few days ago my father in law noticed a hole that he thought a rabbit had dug, (jokes on him, they build nests in the grass and undergrowth lol)...turned out to be a gopher tortoise. Like I said, He or she had only been here a few days, I believe is female but not positive. If it's a female is she digging a new burrow in the perfect sandy spot to lay eggs at this time of year?
Also I know we can't touch it or anything but am I allowed to just throw a few veggie and fruit scaps to it here and there?
Thanks. Chelsea

Hi Chelsea,
      Was the hole a long, angled hole into the ground or a short (6-8 inches) hole dug straight down? You can email some pictures if you would like. A long burrow is where the adult tortoise would live, but the short hole would be where a female would potentially lay eggs.
      It is illegal to throw food out for tortoises, and it's really not good for them. They have fairly complex dietary needs and eating "people food" is like eating junk food. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote several years ago that you might find interesting. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.
      Feel free to write back if you have more questions.

From: David, Subject: Is this a Gopher Tortoise?, Date: May 9, 2020
Hi- I picked up your email from the NBBD page. I saw this fellow on a golf course in Naples. He was at least 20 inches long. Is he a Gopher?
Thank you. D.

      No, that's a Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox) . They are aquatic and are especially fond of ditches and ponds. I hope you didn't try to pick it up because they have really long necks and like to bite!

May 11, 2020
Thank you very much!! I reconsidered this and figured it was not a gopher. And I appreciate your advice. I'm not a native Floridian and have never seen a turtle of this size; I kept my distance!

From: heidi, Subject: Where are the eggs burried, Date: May 8, 2020
LaBelle, FL- plenty (15+) tortoises on 10acre park. (Can send pic- they are out every day). Question: do they burry the eggs in the sand in front/on the side of their burrows? If so, don't they expose them when they go in+out? I've only seen 2 exposed eggs in front of one burrow a few weeks ago. Thank you for your time

      Gopher tortoises typically dig a 6-8 inch hole straight down, lay the eggs in it, and then cover them up with dirt/sand. Very often they dig the hole in the apron of a burrow (the sand mound of dirt that results from digging the burrow), but the eggs are buried deep enough that the tortoise going in and out of the burrow doesn't disturb them. Eggs laying on top of the ground usually aren't good. They were either dug up from a nest by a predator or the eggs weren't fertile in the first place and the female just shed them.
      Feel free to write back if you have other questions.

From: Food Guru, Subject: Neighbors are feeding gopher turtles, Date: May 3, 2020
I just recently bought a house and have learned my neighbors are feeding the gopher turtles and they are now nesting on my property close to the neighbors food source. It appears I cannot cut invasive non-native brush or trees on my property line to be able to access that section due to the turtles inhabiting that area now due to being fed. What are my options to be able to clean up my property line when there are turtles inhabiting that area due to feeding? Thanks

What state and county do you live in?
            M. Rebecca Bolt

From: Raven, Subject: {baby with mother:}, Date: April 30, 2020
How long do baby gopher turtles live in the same hole with there mom until leaving.

When gopher tortoise hatchlings come out of the nest chamber, they do not stay with the mom or any of their siblings. They immediately start eating and when it's time to go in for the night, they will either go into an adult burrow (which may or may not be their mom's), dig their own little burrow, find another hole dug by something else, or just hide out under vegetation or other debris on the ground. There is no parental care in gopher tortoises. Once the eggs are laid in the egg chamber ( a 6 - 8 inch hole in the ground), the eggs and eventually the kids are on their own.
If you have other questions, write me back.

From: Raven, Date: April 30, 2020
Thx but how long after being born do they stay in there hole

As soon as they hatch, they dig out of the hole and start looking for food.

From: losamchow96, Subject: Found random egg, Date: April 25, 2020
egg alone outside burrow Hi there! I found this random egg sitting next to the gopher turtle hole in my yard. I feel horrible because it is sitting out in the open. Is there anything I can do? Get it to the point where it hatches? Or is this a turtles way of pushing out an egg that has no good? Anything you can tell me would be great! I would love to help, and certainly don't want another animal to eat the egg as I live where there are lots of opossum and raccoons.

      There are a couple of possibilities. Something may have already dug up a nest and pulled the egg out. That is not too likely because the egg isn't cracked or broken. It makes more sense that the egg is not fertile and the tortoise just shed it instead of putting it into a nest of good eggs. I would just leave it alone and let it be somebody's meal. Feel free to write back if you have other questions or concerns.

From: Kristen, Subject: Wet area with Gopher Eggs, Date: April 24, 2020
Hi, We had a gopher lay eggs in our front flower bed.. we aren't sure how many. This area gets very flood with rain and has a drain that drains roof water. Should we relocate or will the eggs be ok? We are looking forward to baby turtles!
Thanks Kristen,

Hi Kristen,
      The best (and legal) thing to do is leave them where they are. The tortoise picked that spot because of the soil, sunlight, and elevation. If you can somehow divert the rain coming out of the roof drain, you could do that; she had no way of knowing about a drain.
      To be quite honest, the eggs might not hatch. Many of the nests don't and it's natural and normal. Just do what you can and if this nest doesn't make it, she will dig another one later. Keep your eyes open!
      Feel free to write back if you have more questions.

From: Lisa, Subject: Sick or dead tortiois, Date: April 29, 2020
Last night around dusk, I saw a large gopher tortoise under a bush right by my sidewalk outside the front door. His head is out but he isn't moving much. I thought he was dead but when I got close his one front leg moved. I looked out the door this morning and his is in the exact same position. Wouldn't a tortoise sleep with his head tucked in? I think he is dead. What do I do? Who do I call? (I live in Englewood/Charlotte County).
Thank you, Lisa

Hi Lisa,
      If the tortoise is still sitting there after it warms up a bit today, I would contact the Peace River Wildlife Center ( Another option would be your county animal control, but they may not be willing to help if they only do dogs and cats.
      Let me know what happens or if you need other options.

From: Donna, Subject: Where are they?, Date: April 19, 2020
Have had a home on ocean, ponte vedra beach Florida for a few years.
Big joy has been seeing turtles in dunes below.
Four, six, twenty who knows. All look about same to me.
So far this year, not one.
Are they gone? Hibernating beyond usual?
Know exact spots where they feed, sun.
Look each day.
We have had warm, sunny days which I think they like.
Appreciate input, thanks, Donna

Hi Donna,
Not sure what to tell you; there could be a number of reasons that you are not seeing the tortoises. The habitat may have changed and there is not enough food, the tide may be coming in further and flooding their burrows, a disease could have killed them, etc. Do you see burrows? Do the burrows look like anything is using them?
I know this probably isn't much help. Just keep your eyes open and, hopefully, the tortoises will be back.

April 22, 2020
Tks so much for response.
Missing my buds!
Beach eroding. Maybe that's the problem.
Always loved seeing them, (how many?), and knew where to look.
Stay safe, be well

From: Gary, Subject: Direction of entry to burrow, Date: April 19, 2020
I see them exit forward but have not seen them enter their hole. Do they go in backwards or turn around inside?
D. Ellison

      They go into the burrow head first and turn around in the chamber at the bottom. Gopher tortoises do not do reverse well.:-)

April 22, 2020 Thank you. I bicycle on rails to trails where I've seen many and always wondered.
Debbie Ellison

From: Sandy, Subject: Tortoise on back, Date: April 18, 2020
I know that it is not natural for a gopher tortoise to be on it's back. I found one that way today. I have no idea how long he has been like that was since I have not been on that part of the property for some time. It appeared to move a slight bit. I had my dog with me so I came back to the house hoping that the tortoise is ok and is able to go on it's way soon. Please advise on what I should do to help the tortoise if that is not the case.
Thank you, Sandy

      When tortoises fight, they often try to flip each other over onto their backs. It is not good for a tortoise to be on its back for too long if it is exposed to the direct sun and heat. They can often right themselves and be ok, but not always.       Please go back to where the tortoise was and see if it is still there. If it is and is alive, flip it over and put it in the shade. If it is alive, but in bad shape, you could take it to a wildlife rehabilitator or hospital.
      Thank you,       Becky

From: John, Subject: Best time to spot a gopher turtle, Date: April 13, 2020

There is a gopher turtle hole near us but we have only seen it one time. When we go with our cameras, we never see it. What is the best time to spot a gopher turtle. The one time we saw it was just before sunset.

Seeing a tortoise is more of a temperature thing that a time-of-day thing. They are active when it's more than 70 degrees F, but will stay in their burrows when it is too hot (85+). This time of year in central Florida, I am seeing them at the mouths of the burrows around 10 a.m. and out running around in the late afternoon (4 - 5).

From: lance, Subject: Inbreeding, Date: April 11, 2020
Hello, are there any studies on isolated populations inbreeding? I live in a old neighborhood in West Melbourne and are located on and near about 5 acres of undeveloped land, mainly woods so not great tortoise habitat. I have 4 adults, 1 who is 5 or 6, and now 2 yearlings living in my neighbor and I's property and we have all known the big female and a male with a cracked shell for 20 years now and the other two adults for at least ten.
My concern is potential inbreeding because these tortoises are isolated from the Melbourne village population by Wickham road. There is also a isolated population behind sylvan estates on the crane creek(should be called a canal) easement. So if your looking at google earth I live on lemon grove. I love the tortoises and we all have our dogs trained to not bug them but it is a concern we have with the sub adult mating with his mother in a few years. He was born in my yard and I watched big bertha and crackshell do the dirty. Yes we have named them. Any insight would be appreciative.

      I don't have first-hand knowledge of research conducted on inbreeding in small, isolated wild tortoise populations. My quick search on the internet found that there is significant concern about inbreeding in captive tortoises that are being sold as pets. It makes sense that, over time, a population like what you describe could experience the issues associated with inbreeding and it would be one of the factors that would eventually lead to the population dying out.
      Unfortunately, there is not an easy answer for this problem for gopher tortoises. If the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had a program set up, they might take these small populations and put them in suitable habitat together. That would be good for the species, but many people who enjoy "their tortoises" would lose out. As things stand now, we are depending on the large, protected populations to sustain the species.
      Feel free to write back if you have other questions.

From: Jennifer, Subject: Gopher Tortoise {bobbing}, Date: April 11, 2020
I have a unusual question we came across a female gopher tortoise that actually started followng us sticking her head out and stretching her neck too bobbing both up and down? What on earth did that mean? She kept following us doing this on a trail. Can you please explain why and what it meant?
Thank you so very much!
We were in Brevard county Florida.

Chasing and head bobbing are aggressive behaviors in gopher tortoises. They typically do it to each other, but you must have made her feel threatened for some reason. It's nesting season, so maybe she had a nest with eggs nearby.
      Just my guess because I gave up trying to figure how they think a long time ago! ??

From: Linda, Subject: Baby gopher tortoise {in sun}, Date: April 2, 2020
Fort McCoy Florida USA baby gopher turtle tortoise digging a fresh hole in the direct sun in my Sun, should it have its home in the hot sun like that? the direct sun.

If it decides that the spot is too hot for its burrow, it will dig a new one elsewhere. They are pretty smart like that. Besides, the temperature inside the burrow is much cooler than the temperature outside.
      Write back if you have other questions or concerns.

From: joyrab56, Subject: I found a small gopher tortoise in my yard. He is missing a front claw. What can I do with him?, Date: March 23, 2020

The best (and legal) thing to do is let it be. If it is strong and healthy, it will survive. If it is not, it will provide food for another animal. Both scenarios are ok.
      Thanks,       Becky

From: Bryan, Subject: Tortoise just showed up, Date: March 19, 2020
African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata) Hello, My name is Bryan and yesterday we came home and found this tortoise just hanging out on our back patio. We live in a pretty residential area and our yard isn't very big. We don't mind him/her hanging out just want to make sure it has what it needs (water, food, area). It doesn't seem to be injured, it moved around a little to stay in the sun yesterday. Just wondering what we should do? Just let it be? And what kind is it? Do we need to contact anyone?
Clermont, Florida area
Best Regards, Bryan

Hi Bryan,
      It is an African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata) that is native to the Sahara, and is the third largest tortoise species in the world. They are popular in the U.S. as pets.
Do you still have the tortoise? It may very well have escaped from its owner (they can dig enormous holes) or its owner may have decided it was too difficult to keep and let it go. You might ask around your neighborhood to see if someone is missing it. Otherwise, I would try to find someone to take it ­ a nature center, zoo, a private citizen that likes turtles, etc. If you should decide to keep it, please research it carefully.
They are a lot of trouble to keep properly, which is why they often get abandoned.
      Please let me know the status or if I can be of assistance.
      Thanks,       Becky

March 23, 2020
Thank you for your response.
We weren't planning on keeping it but if it wanted to hang out we would have done everything we could to preserve its health and wellbeing or if it wanted to leave, make sure as it traveled around it would be able to survive. Last thing we want to see is any animal in danger. It decided to leave the day I emailed you and just continued down our back fence line and has not been back. We live in an area with a lot of open space and nature preserves so I hope it will be ok.
We've asked a few people but no luck that it was theirs.
Anyhow, once again thank you for your reply and the helpful info.
      Best Regards,       Bryan

From: Josh, Subject: Relocate, Date: March 11, 2020
Can you recommend someone to relocate a gopher tortoise from my property? Do you have any idea what that might cost?

      Go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission authorized agent locator map ( You will need an authorized agent to do the relocation. I don't know how much it will cost.
      Write back if you have other questions or trouble finding someone.

From: "Joseph, Subject: gopher Tortoise, looking for a solution that everyone can be happy., Date: March 6, 2020
My husband and I are selling our home we have lived in for over 50 years. We had a good offering within one day after it was put on the market. Everyone understood our yard had been home for a large gopher turtle for a number of years. His or Her burrow was several feet away from our vinyl liner swimming pool. But we never had any problem and after exploring all the difficulties of removing her or him we lived together very happy. Two days before the inspection we had a new salt water system put in and was told by the pool company the tortoise had caused a large dent in the only year old liner and had. dug under our pool. To make sure he is safe and drain the pool estimate 1,000-1,200 which we could offer, but only a temporary solution. Staying in the home is no option, we have already moved, husband 90 and I am 85, we have to down size. Destroying his home is no lasting solution and I am having difficulty thinking about doing this. Do you have any suggestions.       Thanks       JJ

A "dent" in the liner probably means the tortoise was digging, ran into the liner and shifted the course of the burrow. Is the pool leaking? If not, things should be fine even if the tortoise's burrow is below the pool. Don't let the pool company folks talk you into anything crazy.
      Feel free to write me back if you have more questions. Good luck and enjoy your new place!

From: Michael, Subject: Gopher Tortoise facing down into hole, Date: March 4, 2020
We have a gopher tortoise near our office that often sits on the edge of her hole and faces out. Over the last few days however, she sits at the edge of her hole with her head facing back down into the hole. Any idea why she would do this?

Hi Michael,
      Tortoises often sit in the mouth of the burrow backwards or sideways. I have no idea why. It may be trying to keep another tortoise from intruding or it may have something to do with thermoregulation. Is it still sitting like that? Has it been going down into its burrow later in the day?

From: Bette, Subject: How many entrances in a gopher tortoise nest?, Date: February 22, 2020

Only one way in/out with room to turn around in the bottom.

From: Lisa, Subject: Heartbroken, Date: February 22, 2020
My husband accidentally backed over our gopher tortoise. He's been in our front yard traveling from one burrow to the other for a long time. My husband has been beside himself with guilt and grief. He really loved that tortoise. I'd like to make him feel better. Can I buy another gopher tortoise to stay in our yard? Meaning, would another gopher tortoise go to the same burrows that the deceased one used if I put the tortoise in the same bushes that the deceased tortoise lived in? Thank you for your help!
Sincerely,       Lisa

Hi Lisa,
      I am so sorry about the tortoise. I know how bad your husband must feel because I have accidentally killed a tortoise, too. Unfortunately, it is illegal to buy another one or pick one up from somewhere else and move it to your yard. Besides, you would probably have to confine it in the yard to make it stay, which is illegal as well.

From: grace, Subject: Eggs, Date: February 21, 2020
How hardy are the gopher turtle eggs. We are staying at a florida rv resort. Kids run thru the apron sometimes. Will this damage eggs?

The eggs are typically in a cavity 6 -8 inches below the surface. Just running across the apron probably won't do any harm, as long as there's no digging. Write back if you have any more questions.
      Thanks,       Becky

From: Stacie, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Holes, Date: February 19, 2020
My neighbor came over in his loader filled with dirt and filled in a gopher tortoise hole in my backyard. I am so upset over this, will the tortoise dig itself out?

They can usually dig out, but it's hard on them. Sounds like you need to get your neighbor under control. Tell him that damaging tortoise burrows is a federal offense.

From: Rochelle, Subject: foods they can eat, Date: February 16, 2020
Hi I am just curious if they can eat the skins or rind of fruits like papaya, mango, and melons? Also in the few food list I have found I don't see any citrus fruits on either list .... Good or Bad? I live in a development where there are several gopher turtle dwellings/holes and many people put food right outside their hole, I have as well but put it further away. I always thought that putting it right next to or on top of that this could attract predators to the turtles home.... What do you think? I have been a vegetarian for years and up north use to compose. However down here in FL iut attracts all sorts of critters. I hate to just throw out so I often go to just wooded areas to throw out compose in the hopes something would eat or it will just return to earth instead of rotting in garbage
I appreciate any feedback. Thanks for all you do. With much appreciation and respect.
Sincerely, Rochelle.

Hi Rochelle,
      The first thing I have to tell you is that feeding gopher tortoises is illegal. Sorry. Besides that, it's really not good for them. They need to be out foraging and getting the different kinds of foods necessary for them to be healthy. Eating "people food" is equivalent to us eating nothing but donuts and French fries.
      I have a composter at my house with a good lid and it is in the far corner of my yard. We haven't had any critter problems. An alternative is one of the new machines that dries the waste food and turns it into a powder that you can use to fertilize your plants or yard. We have one of those at work and it's nice ­ quiet, no smell, and shrinks a bunch of food down to a couple of cups of powder.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions.
      Thanks,       Becky

From: Bet, Subject: Tortoise interest {OK to move},Date: February 16, 2020
Hi Becky
I am staying in Boca Grande for the winter. I'm wondering if it is ok to move tortoises off the road. I am used to doing this at home in Ontario with our turtles. I work with a trauma centre where we pick up injured turtles and bring them for treatment and also taxi them back to where they were found when their injuries are healed

      It is ok to move a gopher tortoise out of immediate danger, such as when they are crossing a busy road and are in real danger of being hit. However, it is illegal to move them to a different location.
      Most of all, be careful that you don't become a road mortality yourself.

From: Russell, Subject: Gopher tortoise {close burrows?}, Date: January 31, 2020
Do tortoises close the borrows?

No, not if the burrow is being used. If no tortoise or other animal is using it, a burrow will eventually collapse.

From: heather, Subject: Busy road, Date: February 2, 2020
Hi Becky , i live in Belleview fl, there is a gopher tortoise in my neighborhood, problem is he/she 's burrow is next to a very busy road. Most of the time he stays close to the burrow, but on beautiful days like today, he crosses that road to forage. Today he was in my yard eating grasses , but seemed a little sluggish. When he was finished I helped him cross the street back to his burrow, but honestly I'm very scared because that road is extremely busy. A few months back I found another tortoise dead in the road, hit by a car . My boyfriend and I put up a sign , but I was wondering if there was more I could do. Thank you so much . 

There is not much else you can do that you haven't already done. I love the sign, and moving the tortoise out of the road is fine. Moving it elsewhere is not legal, and not a good idea biologically either, for lots of reasons. I understand that it might very well get hit, and I wish I had more suggestions, but I don't.
        Hoping for the best,         Becky

From: Russell, Subject: Borrows, Date: January 31, 2020
Do tortoises close their borrows from the inside? When do they hatch

Tortoises do not typically lay their eggs inside a burrow, but dig a hole and bury them in the sand in front of the burrow. This sandy space is called the apron. It takes between 80 and 100 days for the eggs to hatch once they are laid.

From: Kirstie, Subject: Gopher Relocation, Date: January 29, 2020
We are about to begin construction on our new home & our surveyor has found ten boroughs. What is the first step to relocate them? We are building in Odessa, FL.
Thank you for your time & help,       Kirstie

Hi Kristie,
      Go to this Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website ( and it will lead you through the process.
      Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

From: Jim, Subject: Eggs, Date: January 28, 2020
Does the female come back to the nest for the eggs

The nest is typically in the sand in front of a burrow, so the female may come back to that burrow. However, she doesn't come back to do anything with or for the eggs or hatchlings.

From: 9542343909 (Follow-Up) Subject: {Moved a GT}, Sent: January 21, 2020
I feel terrible l released it in a quiet park near where l work. Thinking it was a gropher tortoise. I went back to try to find luck. I'll keep looking. Hope it will do okay. It sure was cute. Thank you

Just keep your eyes open and grab it if you get a chance.
      Thanks,       Becky

From: 9542343909
Thank you for your care and concern. Hope l can find the little guy soon!

hatchling/juvenile African spurred tortoise From: 9542343909, Subject: {Is this a GT?}, Date: January 16, 2020
Is this a gropher tortoise? Found At my work in Hollywood fl. Broward county. It was running around near ac unit. Thank you.

It looks like a hatchling/juvenile African spurred tortoise. They are not native here. It likely came from a pet store and was either released or escaped. You might check around the area and see if someone claims it, but otherwise, I would try to find a pet store or herp club member to take it. It will grow like crazy quickly. They are the 3rd largest tortoise species in the world and dig gigantic holes to rest in. Not a great pet unless you are prepared for it and have the appropriate facilities.
      Write me back if you need help figuring out what to do with it.

From: Jerry, Subject: Resident tortoise won't go in it's burrow, Date: January 13, 2020
Gopher tortoise settled outside the burrow. Hi there.
We've been here in Homosassa for 3 years with one of the larger guys on our property. Last couple days he's been acting odd, more so than just seeing him out right now. He's was hanging out with my cat under our truck yesterday and realized just this afternoon that he's not going down into his hole, I found him sleeping with neck stretched out, about a foot outside the entrance. I just went and checked on him, and mind you it's dark out...he was sideways in the mouth of the hole, sleeping.
The neighbor's dog was sticking his nose in the hole a few days ago, so not sure if that had anything to do with it...but I'm wondering why he's acting like this. I'm attaching some pics.

      That behavior does seem odd, especially this time of year. Could there be another tortoise that has gone into the burrow and is keeping it out? I doubt the dog visit is the problem unless it collapsed the front of the burrow and the tortoise hasn't bothered to dig it back out. What have your overnight temperatures been like? If they are less than 55 degrees and it's still sitting out consistently, you might consider taking it to a wildlife rehabilitator. However, something might be going on that is fine and natural that we don't see or understand, or it could just be old.
      Let me know what you think and keep me posted.
      Thanks,       Becky

Burrow close to street & parking. From: David, Subject: parking, Date: January 10, 2020
How close can you park near a tortoise burrow? the law says you cannot disturb the burrow within 25 ft. the burrow is only 3ft from the street.
Thanks       Dave

Hi Dave,
      The "do not disturb within 25 feet" refers to digging or impacting the soil around the burrow so that might collapse the tunnel, or trap or crush the tortoise in the burrow. Parking near the burrow is not going to cause a problem, but a nice, well placed sign at the edge of the road telling people to watch for tortoises would be helpful.

From: Cynthia, Subject: Someone flagging gopher turtle burrows in the vacant lot next to my house, Date: January 4, 2020
Good Afternoon,
About a week ago my husband heard (2) people in the woods on the vacant lot next to my house. He said he heard them chatting about getting to the burrow and possibly removing it. I did not see these individuals. We have a gopher turtle burrow on the easement between the two properties. This specific burrow has a turtle in it and it has lived here for years, had babies and all, this turtle is thriving just fine. Know this vacant lot has more burrows and its possibly home to other turtles.
On Friday I seen this lady marking more burrows with pink flags. I confronted her and asked her what she was doing. She did not say who she was, she just stated she is marking the burrows for possible relocation if the land gets developed. She was just back out here again today. I have many vacant lots around me and I know these turtles have burrows on them as well, she is not surveying those properties, just the one next to my house.
I live in Port St Lucie, Fl. My only fear is, what if this individual does not have good intentions and I sat back and did nothing about it. I called the Florida Department of Fish & Wildlife and the only thing he said was that pink flags are not common to indicate a burrow however she could be a environmentalist/scientist. This all could be legit but I just want to make sure it is.
Sincerely, Concerned Gopher Turtle Friend

Dear Friend,
      You can go online and see if a gopher tortoise relocation permit has been issued for that piece of property. Go to the "Search by Address" section and put in address. It will show you all of the permits in that area. If there is a permit, it will tell you who received it. If there's not, you can talk to the people that come out there and tell them that they have to have a permit and relocate the tortoises before they can develop the property. Also, if there is not a permit, I would take some pictures so that you have evidence in case any clearing happens.
      Feel free to write back if you have other questions.

From: Cynthia, Subject: RE Fwd: Someone flagging gopher turtle burrows, Date: January 6, 2020
Thanks for the response. Just so happens when I was on the phone with the Florida Wildlife Department the lady flagging the burrows must have overheard my conversation. When I came back from grocery shopping all the flags were gone. These individuals were up to no good...

From: Theresa, Subject: Gopher Turtle {dog & baby GTs}, Date: January 3, 2020
 I have a momma turtle and baby turtles right in my back yard my dogs keeps bringing me the baby I don't know what to do? He's dug up 2 holes already that the baby or babies have made. It's my home and yard I don't want them injured.
Thank you,       Theresa 

Hi Theresa,
      It's very important that you keep the dog(s) from getting the young turtle. Its shell is probably still soft and it will only be a matter of time before it gets injured. Contact a trainer or Google how to teach your dog(s) to stay away from the turtles. Either that or don't let the dog(s) out in the yard without supervision.



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