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Gopher Tortoise

Gopherus polyphemus


A large terrestrial tortoise native to the southeastern United States. The majority of tortoises are found from the fall line of Georgia to southern Florida as well as west to southern Alabama and Louisiana. The one was a juvenile, only about 7 cm wide.


The tortoise makes large burrows in the ground by digging into sandy substrates with its front legs. Burrows can be over 2 m deep and extend well over 2.5 m in length, though many are smaller than these extremes. These burrows are used by over 250 species and are especially important during fires. For this reason the tortoise is often considered a "keystone species" or an "ecosystem engineer"


Though the photos above show a person holding the tortoise in their hand, it is best to not disturb these tortoises, as handling can stress them out. The person holding the tortoise had all the necessary permits prior to this photo being taken. If they have to be touched (for instance, if they are blocking the road) it is advised that you wear a glove or some sort of protective layer on your hands, as all tortoise species can carry a number of diseases including Salmonella.

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Spotted on May 26, 2017
Submitted on Jul 9, 2017

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