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