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Gopher tortoise

Gopherus polyphemus


This particular tortoise scampered about quickly through the grass. It was shy and did not engage in head-bobbing, which is an aggressive behavior that precedes ramming its adversary! You can fit a juvenile gopher tortoise in your hands, but adults can weigh up to 15 pounds.


Tortoise was seen at Honeymoon Island State Park, which is a barrier island off the western coast of Florida and home to many snakes (including rattlers), migratory birds in the spring and fall, as well as marine invertebrates.


The gopher tortoise relies on areas with sandy soil (like the one pictured) and longleaf forests. The latter environment is rare and declining. It is considered a keystone species due to the amazing ability to dig burrows that may house other animals such as burrowing owls or indigo snakes (in total 350+ distinct species). Gopherus polyphemus is also threatened and listed as vulnerable by the IUCN because of habitat loss and predation.

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mauna Kunzah
mauna Kunzah a year ago

Thank you, Tukup! I hope you find a tortoise too. Surely, you’ll outrun him! 😅

Tukup a year ago

Great series Mauna. And great notes. Thanks for sharing. I'll be on the lookout for butting tortoises. I should still be able to outrun them :-)

mauna Kunzah
mauna Kunzah a year ago

Thank you, Neil! My pleasure. In the NatGeo article, someone describes how the tortoise tried to ward off a human by ramming the person’s leg lol. It’s cute aggression.

Neil Ross
Neil Ross a year ago

Wonderful spotting, muana. I really like its defense strategy. If it also involve lots of snapping, it's a winning combination. Thanks for sharing.

mauna Kunzah
Spotted by
mauna Kunzah

Dunedin, Florida, United States

Spotted on Dec 17, 2017
Submitted on Apr 23, 2019

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