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Gopher Tortoise -- "Ask an Expert" -- 2015

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From: mark, Date: December 27, 2015, Subject: Can a gopher eat threw concrete and rebar from the foundation of a home or if not eat destroyer and if so what can we do about it
Can a gopher eat threw concrete and rebar from the foundation of a home or if not eat destroyer and if so what can we do about it

Tortoises often dig burrows in the soft sand or dirt next to structures. I have never known or heard of a building being damaged by a tortoise, so I don’t think you need to worry.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions or concerns.
Becky

From: Caroline, Date: December 26, 2015, Subject: Gopher questions {hospitable yard}
Hello!
I just purchased a house and the previous owner told me a gopher tortoise lives in the front garden. I have yet to see him/her, is this unusual for this time of year in central Florida? I'm worried he may have moved on and I would love to have one in my yard!!
Do you have any suggestions for what I could do to 1) make sure he's still there
2) make my yard more hospitable for him
3) plants to use in my garden to attract/feed him (I know feeding is bad... But could I put out some legumes/lettuce and a dandelion to see if he's around?)
Thank you very much!
Caroline

Hi Caroline,
Tortoises will stay in their burrows longer during this time of year, regardless of the temperatures. If the burrow looks active (i.e. fresh sand at the entrance and/or tracks), the tortoise might be going in and out when you aren’t around to see it. Also, each tortoise typically has more than one burrow, so it may be using another burrow somewhere else in its home range.
I have attached a chapter from a workbook written by a friend of mine; it deals with tortoises in residential areas. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. After you read it, feel free to write back if you have additional questions or want more information.
Happy New Year,       Becky

 

From: Kristine, Subject: Earl the turtle won't burrow, Date: December 21, 2015
Hi, we purchased a 4 acre property in June. There lived Earl in a nice big hole in the yard (he's pretty big). We had to fence in the yard because of our dogs. He seemed ok until we had a flood in our yard and we had tons of rain and his hole flooded (Lutz, Fl). So he moved himself up to a dryer place closer to the house. He attempted to make a hole under a concrete pad that holds our air conditioners but it wasn't big enough for him. When the flood was over and dry, we took him back to his hole in the yard but he wanted nothing to do with it. He started hanging around our RV cover and we rarely saw him out and eating. I've taken him to several parts of the yard and he seems to like the air conditioner area the best but still never makes a hole. I'm not sure what we should do with him. I'm worried he won't be safe when the weather gets colder. Thanks

Have you seen Earl out eating and otherwise acting normally? As long as he is healthy, I would assume he will dig a burrow when he decides he needs one. If it gets really cold (40s) and he still is sitting out, I would take him to a wildlife rehabilitator for a check-up.
Feel free to write me back if you have more questions.
Becky

From: Michael, Subject: gopher turtles {nocturnal?}, Date: December 17, 2015
are they nocturnal

They are generally diurnal (active during the day), but they will come out and feed after dark when the temperatures are warm enough.
Becky

From: bork, Subject: signs, Date: December 17, 2015
Does anyone sell a cute affordable, sign to denote GT presence and protection, along with a nice little arch way, with such sign, to mark the residence of GT?

Wildcotton.com sells a tortoise crossing sign.
Becky

From: bork, Subject: year old mound with no hole, Date: December 17, 2015
I used to have a gopher turtle under my front sidewalk, but for a year now, the pile of sand (no hole) sits, with no evidence of anything. I wanted to pound sand back under sidewalk, but want to make sure the turtle is not doing some kind of hibernation or nursing babies, or such? Do you think it's safe to pound sand back in? It seems rare to see babies, & thought maybe they live under ground a while, before going out into the world.

Please email me some pictures.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Denise, Subject: gopher tortoises on vacant land want to build, Date: December 11, 2015
Becky, we have gopher tortoises on our land and we want to build. Is there a way to encourage a tortoise to leave the burrow so that we can place the concrete slab. There are several burrows of different sizes on the lot, the lot is 8 acres, and we need to move two active burrows encouraging the tortoises to move to another area on the lot. We plan on providing food choices at the opposite end of the property for the tortoises.
How do we encourage leaving one burrow and moving to another, or building a new one before egg laying season?
Garden Crone, Sumter County, Florida

There is not really a legal way to encourage a tortoise not to use a burrow. You might try enhancing other parts of your land that are not going to be developed (information attached), but that may or may not work in a timely manner. You don’t want to be in a situation of a gopher tortoise holding up your building contractors. I suggest that you apply for a relocation permit and have a certified tortoise agent come evaluate your situation and do the relocation. Look at this website and go to the permit link: http://www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/gopher-tortoise/.
If you can figure out how to do the development you want and stay 25 ft away from any burrows, you won’t have any issues.
Becky

From: chris, Date: November 20, 2015, Subject: Gopher turtle injured
In my yard a crow was attacking a small gopher tourtoise and it pecket out 1 eye, the eye is really hard for me to look it its like half in half out, i cringe thinking about it.....These birds are vicious... Well i came out and the bird flew away and i saved the tortoise.. what do i do? Let it go again in my yard and hope its ok? also like 2 claws on the front are broken, hanging half on half off, i hope they grow back, they broke off all the way at the top with some flesh... ouch
nature is cruel

If you still have the tortoise and it is still alive, please take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. If you need help locating one in your area, send me the name of your state and county, please.
Becky

From: beebee, Subject: Is there a cost to relocating several gopher turtles when excavating for a business?, Date: December 9, 2015

What state and county are you in?
Becky

From: Pam, Date: December 7, 2015, Subject: turtle hole {run over}
We have a gopher tortoise we see all the time, I know they hibernate, but my question is if they are in there hole and it gets drove on and closes it up can they dig they’re way out , if they are inside? People mowing the power lines ran over it.

As long as the tortoise didn’t get injured, it should be able to dig its way out. They are pretty amazing diggers!
Becky

From: Lori, Date: December 6, 2015, Subject: Gopher turtle ????
softshell turtleI believe I have a gopher turtle in my yard. What should I do
This is in my yard. I live in Boca Raton fl 33496. It looks like it wants to get out. Can I pick it up??

Hello,
That is a Florida softshell turtle. They live in the water. Do you have a ditch, pond, or retention area nearby? You can pick it up or scoot it out to the nearest water. Be very careful because their necks are long and they can turn around and bite you.
Becky

From: Susan, Date: December 6, 2015, Subject: Gopher Tortoise in the yard
We have a small home that we would like to sell. There is a Gopher Tortoise that has dug a burrow in the front yard. Are there any laws we should be aware of with selling this house, since the GT is an endangered species?
Thank you for your assistance and knowledge.
Susan

Hi Susan,
The gopher tortoise is protected by the State of Florida and is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The main thing you need to make sure happens is that anyone interested in buying the house knows about the tortoise and understands the associated legalities. There can’t be any construction or ground disturbance within a 25 ft radius of the burrow. The tortoise cannot be fenced in so that it can’t get out (tortoises can dig under fencing, but won’t if the fencing is buried a few inches deep). The owners can’t treat the tortoise like a pet, so no feeding, etc. The new owners can either choose to live with the tortoise or get a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for relocation. If you are working with a real estate agent, make sure they are aware of the situation and agree to cooperate; you don’t want to sell the house to someone who ends up surprised and not happy.
Becky

From: Todd, Date: December 4, 2015, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Adopted Us
Hi,burrow under house
Two days ago, my wife called me from the car shortly after she left the house to go pick up our son from school to say that there was a gopher tortoise down at the end of our street getting ready to go into a very busy road. I quickly hung up, and raced down to the end of the block to find the tortoise right on the edge of the road with his head pulled into his shell in fear as cars raced by him. I took him back to the house, and put him in our backyard for the day as I was going to drop him off at Erna Nixon Park near my son's school in the morning to give him a good, safe home.
Well, the next day rolls around, and I didn't have a chance to take him to the park like I planned, so he was backyard-bound for another day. Now, we made sure he had some kale and blueberries to munch on for the day, and pretty much left him to his business.
The next day dawns, and I can't find him. Eventually, he turns up in the corner of our backyard where he had dug a burrow for himself, and he was quite comfortable, than you very much, Apparently, in the time he's been in our backyard, he decided that he really doesn't want to leave. I left the gate to the backyard open and everything, but he wanted nothing to do with the outside world.
Now that he's calling our backyard home, is it illegal to forceably remove him for relocation? Not that we want to. He's more than welcome to stay right where he's at if he wants to. I just want to make sure I know the law just in case we ever decide to move, and the next owner queries about our newest member of the family.
Thanks,       Todd
PS: I've enclosed a picture of Bob (my son named him :-) ), and the corner of the yard he now calls home. He's in the very corner, under the grapefruit tree.

Hi Todd,
As long as Bob is free to come and go as he pleases, you are fine. Please do not feed him; that is illegal and also not good for him. I have attached a chapter from a tortoise book written by a friend of mine that talks about tortoises in yards. It will help you make your new tenant happy. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.
Feel free to write back if you have questions.
Becky

From: Bob, Date: December 2, 2015, Subject: question about baby gopher tortoise
I found a baby gopher tortoise in my yard the day before yesterday. it was on its back in a flat area so all I can figure is that something dropped it there. It was not very spunky so I uprighted it and put it in a sunny spot. The next day I went out and it was not there but this morning it was back in the general area where I had first left it. It seemed a little more energetic. I cut some small apple slices and left them close by before leaving for work. I live on a high, dry sand ridge in NE Florida on a large wooded lot with Pines and blackjack oaks and have seen adults on our street but never on my property. I don’t think there is a burrow near me and am concerned about the weather getting cold soon. Is there anything I can do if it sticks around to help insure its survival. Thanks

The best thing to do is let it be. If it was around for a couple of days, it must be staying somewhere suitable at night. Young gopher tortoises will dig their own small burrows, hang out in adult burrows, or just stay underneath vegetation or other cover. Also, please don’t feed it. It needs to be finding its own food, and if there is not enough or not the right kinds there, it will move on. If you feed it, it may stay when it shouldn’t.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Kevin, Date: December 2, 2015, Subject: Gopher tortoise???another Sculcata
This turtle walked up to me on my vacant property, it had numbers written on its shell so I thought it was a gopher tortoise but it was very large and now I'm thinking it's an African spurred tortoise, is it???

Hi Kevin,
African spurred tortoise. What do you plan to do with it?
Becky

FOLLOW UP December 6, 2015
Thanks for the info. It had walked away so not sure where it is. I'll call FDEP if I see it again to have someone get it. I was surprised to see numbers painted on it since it's not a gopher tortoise. If i knew it wasn't, I wouldn't have let it walk away and would have had someone come get it.
Kevin

It’s ok, Kevin. Most people don’t expect to see exotic tortoises walking around the neighborhood. Unfortunately, it is becoming more common. It might be someone’s pet that escaped because they are really bad about digging huge holes and getting away. Keep an eye out for it. Most of all, thanks for caring!
Becky

From: Barb, Date: December 1, 2015, Subject: Road Surface and Gopher Turtle Safety
Hello Becky,
We have a second home on a barrier island (Manasota Key) on the west coast of Florida near Venice. Our end of the Key is still serviced by a sand road that we all love and find so natural and lovely. It is a part of the reason that many of us chose this key.
Recently a new road material has been installed in front of several of the homes with more to come. One of the neighbors posed a good question - Will this granite gravel and sand mix be harmful to our resident gopher turtles in any way? They too, are part of the natural experience we all find so unique and enjoyable and do not wish to see anything change that.
I look forward to your response and wish to thank you for the opportunity.
Sincerely,       Barb

Hi Barb,
I don’t believe a mix of granite and sand would be harmful. It definitely would be more difficult for a tortoise to dig a burrow in it, but digging in or near the road should be discouraged anyway. To me, of more concern would be making sure tortoises aren’t run over or burrows aren’t crushed during the installation of the new material. A talk with the contractor might be helpful to make sure everyone is aware that the tortoises are in the area and the workers need to be watchful.
If you have a concern about the material being used that I don’t understand, please write me back.
Becky

From: FLINT, Date: November 24, 2015, Subject: 2 gopher tortoises may need a new home
So I have lived in my home for 25 years. We have had a gopher tortoise on our 1+ acres for at least 20 years. He may have been their longer and we just did not know he was living there. I think his first burrow was elsewhere and he relocated at some point. Anyway, 10 years ago we found a second burrow and second tortoise. I am now selling my home and the new owner wants them relocated. I understand the permit to move 2 is $207 and it must be done by a professional. How does one fine a recipient site? I live in a subdivision bordering on woods. The neighborhood is old and established. We left our lot mostly natural with palmetto and pine and oaks, with only a little sod. St Lucie County Florida

Hi,
It is sad that the new owners are not willing to let the tortoises stay, especially if you have been ok having them there for so long. Seems to me that would be attractive.
If they insist on having them moved, they need to apply for a permit. All of the instructions on professionals and recipient sites, etc., are on-line:
http://www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/gopher-tortoise/.
Feel free to write back if you need more information.
Becky

From: Mac, Date: November 18, 2015, Subject: relocating gopher tortoise
Hi,
We live on a two acre plot in Citrus County, Florida which we have kept naturalized, only clearing enough land for our house. We have mulch and shrubs instead of a yard, so the entire property is still natural as possible. There was a mature gopher tortoise on the property when we moved here, and he/she dug three or four burrows on the property, most recently in a large saw palmetto clump. We have observed the gopher for the last 10 years, but unfortunately it was run over by a car a month or so ago. I enjoyed the creature being on the lot and creating an environment for many other creatures who share burrows, and I wonder if it is possible for a gopher being relocated from some nearby development to be relocated to our lot and given one of the old burrows for a starting home. If so, who do I contact to set up such a transfer?

Hi Mac,
I am really sorry about your old friend. I think what you are looking for is the opportunity to take in a waif tortoise. Here is a link to a fact sheet; at the bottom of it is a phone number and a link to get more information. http://myfwc.com/media/2358811/GT_FactSheet_Waif.pdf
If you have any more questions, feel free to write me back.
Becky


MacFrom: FRAZIER, Date: November 17, 2015, Subject: Gopher Tortoise and Fences
I have 5 acres of land in an area with gopher tortoises. If I install a 'field fence' around my land will it help stop any of them from getting on my land. I realize they can dig under it, but thought for any walking to the fence they might turn away. Thoughts?
Mark

Hi Mark,
Why do you want to keep them off your land?
A fence may deter them unless they really, really want in badly. As you know, they can dig under.
Becky

From: Jeremy, Date: November 16, 2015, Subject: Gopher tortoise in yard
I live in South Georgia on a city lot, probably no bigger than an acre. Yesterday morning I went outside and found there was a large gopher tortoise under a vehicle that I seldom drive. I left him be, but was concerned because my lot is completely contained with a road on one side and railroad tracks on the other. I really don't know where the tortoise came from. It seems to be staying under the vehicle for the past 2 days and has dug a shallow hole just as big as its bottom half. It doesn't seem to be burrowing, and I worry about the weather being cold. Any ideas on what I should do? Thanks!

Please email me some pictures of the tortoise.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Barbara, Date: November 15, 2015, Subject: Gopher tortoise {age}
How can the age of an older gopher tortoise be determined?
Barbara

Hi Barbara,
When a gopher tortoise is newly hatched, they will have a small slit on their bottom shell where they were attached to the egg. Once that egg scar heals, they will remain brownish orange-colored and the shell will be soft until they are around 5 years old. After that, the shell is brown and hard, and about all you can say is that the tortoise is an adult. They do grow throughout their lives, so the bigger they are, the older they are. However, size and how fast they grow depend on the latitude where they live and food resources. They can typically live 45 – 60 years in the wild.
Becky

From: Kay, Date: November 9, 2015, Subject: Urine Color
Hello,
I worked with an environmental education group that has a gopher tortoise (with a state permit) for educational uses. It seems to urinate after soaking in a tub of water and the urine is a sort of brown/pink/red color. Is this normal? The animal eats well and is very active. I am curious and wanted to know if it should be checked.
M. K.

Hi,
How long has this been happening? Many times, a tortoise’s urine will be the same color as whatever it has been eating. An example that I see often is when the palmetto berries are ripe and dark red, and the urine will reflect this. I would find out what the tortoise is being fed and see if that might have something to do with it. If not, a trip to a wildlife rehabilitator or vet with reptile experience might be a good idea.
Becky

From: Tricia, Date: November 9, 2015, Subject: Oak Trees in my Yard
Hello
I have several active gopher tortoise holes in my 3 ½ acre yard in Belleview, FL. I have concerns that oak trees that were planted years ago will interfere with the nest as the trees get larger. I so enjoy these creatures and want to do all I can to encourage them to stay in my yard. Some trees are small enough that I could cut them down myself. Others are large & would require hiring someone to cut them down. What’s your thoughts on trees interfering with my friends’ homes.
Thanks,       Tricia

Hi Tricia,
I would not be too concerned about roots invading the burrows because the tortoises will either keep them compacted on the sides or dig another burrow. However, if the trees get big and shade out the grasses and weeds, there won’t be food resources for them. Thinning a few trees would not be a bad idea.
Becky

From: Frank, Date: November 5, 2015, Subject: Dog bit baby gopher tortoise
Hello - I have a 25 lb. Puggle (Pug/ Beagle) that "mouths" anything and everything. When I let her out in the backyard I will often find her eating pine bark from the flower bed. At one point this morning I glanced outside to see she had something else in her mouth that was different in color, only to discover it was a baby gopher tortoise. I was quite angry to say the least as I am a huge reptile lover and couldn't believe my eyes. Fortunately she did not proceed to eat the tortoise, more like played with it, but did slightly puncture the top of the shell (which is still soft as this turtle is very young-just larger than a silver dollar). I am sure he/ she is the baby of one of the two adult tortoises that lives along my property line. I just want to be sure there is nothing I need to do or can do in order to make sure the tortoise is OK. I put the tortoise in a confined area of my backyard and gave it some water as I just wanted to be sure it will be OK and will heal on its own. Please advise.
Thank you,       Frank

Hi Frank,
It is important that you take the tortoise to a wildlife rehabilitator or vet with reptile experience. The shell is an outgrowth of the tortoise’s bone and could easily become infected. Because reptiles are cold-blooded, it may take months for the infection to become obvious, and by then, it would be too late to cure.
If you don’t know where to take it, send me your state and county and I will try to find a place for you.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Tony, Date: November 4, 2015, Subject: gopher hole
I am buying a property in wildwood fl . There was a hole looks like gopher turtle hole. Is their a way to move the turtle to a better place, how is this done by a lick trapper, or state move turtle at expense ????.
Sincerely,       Tony

Hi Tony,
The first thing to do is find out for sure if the burrow belongs to a gopher tortoise or something else, like an armadillo. A gopher tortoise cannot be relocated without a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Here is the link to your regional office; you can contact them for more information or apply online for a permit. http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/gopher-tortoise/
The best option (from the tortoise’s and my point of view) would be to leave the burrow alone and just stay 25 ft. away from it with any construction or development. They make good neighbors!
Becky

From: Mary Ann, Date: November 2, 2015, Subject: {people taking GTs for consumption}
I am writing you in great frustation, across the road from where I live is The Hidden Water Preserve. This is located in Eustis, Florida. I have witnessed on many occasions, people taking Big Gopher Tortoise from the area of their holes. I have boldly approached them any told them to release the turtles. They tell me to mind my own business. I have contacted several organizations and was told by the time they could get there the people would be gone. I don't understand why they can not post a sign that says it is against the law to take them for consumption. Yes for consumtion. Same group of individuals, same autos. This makes me extremely angry. Do I continue to stand by and do nothing, everyone tells me including organizations I could be putting myself in harms way.
Sincerely yours,       Mary Ann

Mary Ann,
Contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (
http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/ne/) and tell them what you know. You can do that anonymously either over the phone or online. If you can get the license plate number from the vehicle without taking a risk, that will be very helpful to the law enforcement people.
Becky

From: Nancy, Date: November 1, 2015, Subject: GopherTortoise {empty shells}
Sadly found three empty shells were in yard today. What could have gotten to them. They were about 4 inches long.

Were they intact or broken up? Can you send me some pictures?
Becky

From: +12392072726, Date: October 31, 2015, Subject: {big tortoise}
big tortoise Hi, this tortoise(?) just showed up in my yard. He looks like a gopher but seems way bigger than most web sites say gopher turtles are. Would very much like to identify it so I can figure out if it needs protection or relocation etc. Any help would be appreciated.

It is an African spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata). They come from the southern edge of the Sahara and are the third largest tortoise species in the world. Unfortunately, people buy them from pet stores or private dealers when they are tiny and don’t realize what they are really getting. These tortoises need a fair amount of room and care. If a sulcata wandered into your yard, it probably escaped from its owner (they love to dig huge holes) or was released. You might try to find the owner in your neighborhood in case it escaped and someone is looking for it. Otherwise, I would contact different wildlife facilities (zoo, nature center, wildlife rehabilitator or adoption center) or find out if there is a herp society (hobbyists who keep amphibians and reptiles) in your area.
Write back and let me know if none of the above ideas work and I will try to figure out Plan B.
Becky

From: MAMABEAR957, Date: October 29, 2015, Subject: {eggs laid in January}
I have over 2 acres of land with at least 4 if not more gopher tortoises. First let me say I love these things and don't want anything to happen to them. About 9 years ago some were born under the porch. One of them was like a puppy, she followed my husband around and would try to get in the house. We do not bother any of them but I will put out lettuce for them. My question is the one under the porch was mating this morning and I'm wondering about her eggs being laid in Jan under the porch. What are the chances of them making it in the dark and cold?

Tortoises are not particularly intelligent, but they do have great instincts. She will not lay eggs in a place where they won’t stand a chance of hatching. Sometimes things will happen that can suddenly destroy a nest, like flooding, but the situation you describe is not like that.
Please don’t feed the tortoises. Their dietary requirements are fairly complex, and when they fill up on “junk food”, they are not getting all of the nutrition they need to thrive. I have attached a chapter from a workbook about having tortoises on your property. I think you will find the information useful. Feel free to write me back if you have questions after you read it. The chapter is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.
Becky

From: Sherry, Date: October 18, 2015, Subject: Prospective home buyer
I am considering buying a home that has a Gopher Turtle living on the side if the home digging under the foundation. Many people have rejected the home because of the turtle. If I do by the home I have no intention on touching or disturbing the turtle. However I have a small child & plan to get a dog this fencing in the back yard would necessary to protect the turtle & allow my son & dog to roam freely. It would thus leave the turtle on the side of the home & he would have full access to roam in the front yard or woods near by. He would not be trapped in any way just would no longer have access to the back yard unless he choose to dig under the fence. Would the require a permit? Also how could the property be properly inspected prior to the sale of the home?

As long as the tortoise is not captive, you don’t need a permit. They are quite capable of digging under a chain link fence if it isn’t buried into the ground.
I am not sure what you mean about the inspection. There is no need for any wildlife people to inspect. As far as passing a home inspection, that will likely depend on the inspector. People sometimes assume that because a tortoise is digging next to a building that it will cause damage to the foundation. A tortoise burrow has one entrance/exit and goes into the ground at around a 45 degree angle. The tortoise will not dig into the concrete and its burrow is not large enough to cause the foundation to crumble or crack. If a home inspector fails you because of the tortoise, or the mortgage company won’t loan you the money, it is because they don’t know any better. Perhaps your real estate agent can suggest an inspector that understands Florida and its wildlife.
I hope you get the house. You sound like the homeowner that the tortoise needs.
Becky

From: Crystal, Date: October 16, 2015, Subject: Sick Gopher tortise
Hi Becky
We've always had a gopher tortoise in our backyard but today I came home to a second one in the front yard he's alive but isn't moving and has yet to open his eyes he just moves his head in and out of the shell but hasn't taken a step to move or open his eyes. Could it be the colder weather here in Hernando County or could he be sick? And if he's sick who can I call on a weekend to help him? Over 2hrs and he hasn't walked :(
Crystal

Hi Crystal,
I just saw this email this morning. That does not sound like healthy behavior, even though it is getting cooler. Do you still have the tortoise? If so, here is a link to a rehabilitation center in Spring Hill:

http://www.relylocal.com/spring-hill/business_listings/wroh-florida-wildlife-rehabilitation-of-hernando
I don’t know anything about them, so if you go there, please write me back and let me know how it was and what happened.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Richard, Date: October 26, 2015, Subject: info {get rid of them}
Hello,
My question is: How can I get rid of the Gophers I have on my property without harming them and get them a home where they can survive. I’m in Baker County. My primary e-mail is rando@nefcom.net
Thanks,

Contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for direction:
http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/nc/
Becky

From: 7272511899, Date: October 23, 2015, Subject: {dog killed a baby GT}
My dogs just killed a baby gopher tortoise... I was wondering if I should put it in the mother's burrow in front of her or just throw it into the jungle she obviously is very distraught, I have never seen her look like this before.

Just put the baby in the woods. A dead animal in the burrow will attract ants and/or predators that will not be good for the adult.

Follow up: Well, it is most certainly dead now. And I have removed it from the Boro... This is so sad

Please do your best to protect the tortoises from your dog. If you want suggestions on how to do that, write me back and tell me what kind of dog it is, if it lives outside or do you let it out, and how old it is.
Becky

Follow up:       Just so you know, research has shown that the vast majority of hatchlings (>90%) do not survive to one year of age. They are an important food source for many other species of wildlife; however, this does not include your dog. Please continue to try and monitor your dog and protect the tortoises.
Thank you,       Becky

From: MD Zakri, Date: October 23, 2015, Subject: an inquiry {gopher tortoise ??} Syrian tortoise
hello, i bought this little fella yesterday from a kid, and i want to make sure i know its kind ..is it a baby gopher tortoise?
p.s : i live in syria ,the middle east, and its wiki says it lives in north america !
DDS M.Subhi

Hello,
It’s not every day I get a question from Syria! I was not sure what kind of tortoise it is, but have people I asked. They both said it is a juvenile golden Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca terrestris), which occurs in Syria (see photo below).
Here are a couple of care sheets that will help you keep your tortoise healthy:

http://www.reptilesmagazine.com/Care-Sheets/Turtles-Tortoises/Greek-Tortoise/
http://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/Basicmedcare.htm
Read through these sheets and feel free to write back if you have more questions. Have fun!
Becky

From: Doris, Date: October 19, 2015, Subject: How does the tortoise get the dirt out of the tunnel he digs?
The subject says it all. Gopher turtles are so cute. I cannot imagine how, as they dig their holes, they are able to get rid of the dirt so that they can use the tunnel. If you have any photos of turtles in action please share. Thank you

Tortoises throw the dirt out of the tunnel behind them as they dig. It looks like a geyser of sand coming out behind them. I have seen it a couple of times, but never got pictures or video. That is how the pile of sand (apron) in front of the burrow is formed.
Becky

From: Taylor, Date: October 14, 2015, Subject: Mixing two kinds of tortoises
Hello,
I do not have gopher tortoises but I was hoping you may be able to help me out. I have a baby Sulcata Tortoise that is about 11 months old. His family of tortoises had been raised in a domestic setting. I am now looking to get baby desert tortoises that have also been raised in a domestic setting for several generations. Will it be okay to mix the two kinds of tortoises? My baby Sulcata has not shown any kind of aggression towards my 3 dogs.
Thank you,       Taylor

Taylor,
From what I saw when I researched your question, I don’t think it would be a good idea to mix the two species. Apparently, sulcatas prefer to be alone and will bully smaller tortoises. Unless you can house them separately, I would suggest not getting the desert tortoises.
Becky

From: Kendall, Date: October 11, 2015, Subject: Hortoise my tortoise {water in hole}
Hi I have had a gopher tortoise for 25 years. I live in Bakersfield California. 20 years ago he Dug his own borough and that's where he has been living happily for all these years. All of a sudden now my neighbors sprinkler system is dripping into his hole. He comes out during the day and wanders around my backyard and gets warm, but I'm concerned about once hibernation starts next month. I can't get him to dig another hole and I'm wondering what to do there's no way to keep the water from going in there. Thank you.
Kendall

Hi Kendall,
Can’t you politely explain the situation to your neighbor and ask them to move the sprinkler? If not, when Hortoise gets uncomfortable enough, I think he will dig a new burrow if he has a place to do so.
Are you sure Hortoise is a gopher tortoise and not a desert tortoise? Gopher tortoises are only native to the southeast U.S., while desert tortoises naturally occur in parts of California. Here is the link to the desert tortoise council website. Check it out. www.deserttortoise.org.
Becky

From: gettysburg1961, Date: October 11, 2015, Subject: Gopher turtles {burrow by inground pool}
We are in the process of buying a foreclosure home in Clay County. Should be closing this month. During A inspection of the property we noticed a burrow near the in ground pool. Yesterday we were there and saw two turtles by this burrow. Could you please provide me with information on who could come and relocate the turtles off the property. We don't want anything to happen to them, and we have a small puppy.

Contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/nc/) to get more information and apply for a relocation permit.
Becky

From: Annette, Date: October 9, 2015, Subject: Unusual tortoise behavior {sideways in burrow}
Becky, we have a 1 acre vacant lot adjacent to our home on south Merritt Island. There are about 7 dens on this lot and we observe as many as three tortoises simultaneously. Lately one of the larger tortoises sits for most of the day just outside the hole and seems to defend it from other tortoises (and me trying to observe) by crawling into the entrance and often turning sideways. Any ideas about what might be going on? Thanks for all the great info on this site. Don (from the biomedical lab)

Hi Don,
I often see tortoises turn sideways when they are trying to keep somebody else out of their burrow. It probably is more effective than facing in or out of the tunnel and allows them to put their claws into either side of the entrance.
Nice to hear from you and hope you are doing well. I miss you!
Becky

From: Shawn, Date: October 9, 2015, Subject: Tortoise scared of soaking
I have a desert tortoise almost 3 years old. I'm worried he's dehydrated because he has been peeing out that white powdery stuff. He does drink water because I see him do it sometimes but I don't know how often because I can't stare at him 24/7. Anyways I'm not sure what to do because people say they need to soak but my tortoise hates that and just tries to escape every time. He's been letting the white powder out almost every day for almost a week now and I don't want anything bad to happen to him. Thanks for the website by the way : )
P.s. nothing has changed in his behavior either, he is still active and seems happy and healthy besides the white powder.

Hi,
Does he have access to a shallow water bowl where he can climb in and out? Make sure the water is clean. I think he will soak if he needs to, if the opportunity is there. However, I am mostly familiar with gopher tortoises, not desert tortoises. Go to the Desert Tortoise Council website (www.deserttortoise.org) and send them an information request. There is a “contact us” tab at the top that will take you to several email tabs.
Becky

From: KDUDLEY, Date: October 8, 2015, Subject: Baby Gopher {near pool}
Becky I have several Burrows on my property.. Yesterday I came home and a little baby was in my pool. I do not know how long he was in there.
I went around all the burrows but did not see much activity; I do have one at 10 feet from my pool.
Question: can i take the turtle and put him/her in one of the other burrow far away from the pool. He is now in a big bucket where i put water, grass and shade, until i know what to do.
I did not see any other babies.
Kathy

Hi Kathy,
Yes, I would take it to one of the burrows that you have nearby. If there are any that look active, placing it in there would be preferable. Do this as soon as possible.
Let me know if you have other questions.
Becky

From: Rosita47, Date: October 3, 2015, Subject: GOPHER TURTLE FIGHTING
I live in Samsula, Florida, Volusia County on 11 acres and have many gopher turtles and burrows in my yard. Several times I have seen them fighting and flipping each other over. Today, I found a turtle flipped over in my yard with a pile of poop on top of it. This is the second time I have seen this in my yard. Can you please explain this behavior to me?
Thanks,       Rose

Hi Rose,
Gopher tortoises will try to flip each other over when they are fighting over home ranges, burrows, or mates. The poop you saw probably belonged to the tortoise that was on its back; it came out when the tortoise was upside down and landed on its bottom shell. They poop when they are stressed. If you see a tortoise on its back, please gently flip it over and let it go on its way.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Gary, Subject: {Protecting} land with Tortoises, Date: September 26, 2015young gopher tortoise
I walk to the gym 6 days a week and this is the 2nd or 3rd time I’ve encountered what I believe to be baby Gopher Tortoises. Part of this huge chunk of land recently was developed for a large plaza, and the rest of the land is for sale, zoned commercial, here in Titusville, FL. The land sets to the West of Barna Avenue, between Hwy 50, and Knox McRae Drive. Is there anything that can be done to protect this area from further development?

Hi Gary,
I am very familiar with that area and had a radiotagged indigo snake that I followed for a couple of years there. He eventually got run over on Barna.
That is a young gopher tortoise. You can contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/ne/) and let them know the property has gopher tortoises. I would also call whatever office with Brevard County issues construction permits so that if someone tries to get one without getting a permit from the Wildlife Commission to relocate the tortoises, they will be on notice. A call to the real estate company might also help.
There may not be anything you can do if someone really wants to develop that property. I know that much of it is marsh and would be expensive to get permits to fill, so that might be a good deterrent.
Becky

From: Heather, Subject: {relocate?} Gopher tortoise, Date: September 24, 2015
Dear Expert,
We recently put up A fence around our yard and just found a gopher tortoise inside the fence, presently it has dug a couple holes and goes in between them and the bushes. I know he's endangered and that we are not supposed to touch him and we are supposed to leave him be however since he's inside the fence he could not leave if you wanted to. Should I relocate him right outside the fence or should I leave him be? Our fenced in area is rather large about a half acre and has quite a few bushes for him. However I would feel bad if he has family and friends elsewhere and wants to leave and can't. Any suggestions? Thank you in advance for any suggestions,
Heather perry :)

Hi Heather,
Unless the fence is buried several inches beneath the surface of the ground, it will be able to dig under if it wants to leave. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote. I think you will be interested in the information. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. After you look it over, feel free to write me back if you have more questions.
Becky

From: Logan, Subject: What is this?, Date: September 23, 2015juvenile gopher tortoise
My name is Logan. I'm from Brevard County, Florida. I found this turtle & can't figure out what kind it is..can you tell me? I can't seem to find a match to it anywhere online..

Hi Logan,
It is a very young gopher tortoise. Please take it back to where you found it and let it go. Do this in the mid-morning or early evening, and not during rain. Either put it in a burrow if you see one, or place it under some vegetation so predators don’t see it. Gopher tortoises are legally protected, so you can’t keep it.
Feel free to write back if you have any questions.
Becky

From: Jennifer, Subject: Gopher Tortoise next door, Date: September 21, 2015Gopher tortoise nesr fence
Hello. Two days ago this little one showed up in my next door neighbors fenced in back yard. Sent a pic to a friend and she said it's a gopher Tortoise and to leave it alone. I love wildlife and am happy to see him/her everyday. (I named him Dig-Dug since he had to have dug under the fence. The house is vacant as the owner lives in Canada and only comes occasionally if she rents it for the winter season. Oh, I am in southwest florida. Now logic tells me if he got in he can get out if he wants, but this afternoon he has poked at a small hole in the gate several times. I kind of don't want to let him out for fear of getting hit by a car or attacked by another animal. There are four fruit tress and plenty of grass for him to eat. He actually comes to the fence now when I sit outside. Am I being selfish leaving him stuck in there or will nature take its course and he will dig out when he is ready? Also do they need a water source like a lake or can they get enough water from the plants they eat? It rains a lot here in the summer.
Thank you in advance for your help,       Jennifer

Hi Jennifer,
Unless the fence is buried several inches under the ground, it will be able to dig out when/if it is ready. If the food resources are not good, it will leave. They typically don’t drink much free-standing water and rely on the plants they eat for hydration.
Feel free to write back if you have more questions or concerns.
Becky

From: Kathleen, Subject: Up to 4 Gopher Tortoises now, Date: September 19, 2015
Hi,
I got such a kick out of watching these guys; we all did. It started out with "Garry;" (he's been here for two years) now it's Garry, Glen, Goofy, and Gilbert (assuming they're all male; I have no idea). However, enough is enough when it comes to the destruction of my property.
I know removing them costs money for permits, which I cannot afford. I am disabled; my also disabled sister and 94 year old mother live with me and we all do the best we can and help each other. We barely get by as it is.
I've had kids run through my yard (as a short cut), catch their foot in the tunnel and injure themselves. I hope I don't get sued! If so, what can I do; sue the state of Florida for enforcing a law that I cannot move the turtles or touch their tunnels? I find that very doubtful.
On the other side of my fence, in the back, is an empty lot with TONS of holes and tunnels; we see them going back and forth under the fence.
I have been forced to utilize part of my back yard a wild life sanctuary; just for s's and g's, I called the City Hall and said, "If my back yard is now a wild life sanctuary, do I still have to pay property taxes?" They laughed so much, thinking I was joking; I wasn’t and they said, “No” (I didn’t expect them to agree with me, naturally, but I had to ask, right?).
What if my lawn guys don't want to take care of my yard anymore (because they cut around the tunnels with a hand held tool)? What if they decide because of this, they want to charge more? Is there any kind of a light at the end of the tunnel for ME, the homeowner?
Please understand; I love animals; I have saved animals lives - wild and domestic. If these guys were not so destructive, I wouldn't care if they hung out in my yard. But they ARE destructive and this is just not fair.
I live in Lake County, Florida. Please help me.
Thank you.

I suggest you contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/ne/) and ask them to send someone to your property. They will be able to tell you all of your options.
Becky

From: Nikki, Subject: Found a tortoise, Date: September 15, 2015found this tortoise
Do you recognize this? It crawled out from under my car. We took it in but people keep telling me different types of tortoise

It is a juvenile gopher tortoise. They are legally protected. Please take it back where you found it and release it in the nearest vegetation, out of harm’s way. Do this in the mid-morning or early evening, not during the heat of the day or in the rain. If you see a burrow around, you can put it in the mouth of the burrow; otherwise, put it under some vegetation so it is hidden from predators. Please do this as soon as possible.
If you have questions or concerns, write me back.
Thank you,       Becky

From: debbie, Subject: Gopher Toroise {needs help}??, Date: September 9, 2015
I live in Venice, Florida on 5 acres. My home seems to have become quite a gopher tortoise refuge! For some reason, one has dug a burrow right under my bedroom window, exposing the foundation of the home. There are other burrows dug around the property, but this one is almost always occupied. I painted a dob of different color paint on the shell so I can tell them apart. There have been times that 2 turtles were in the one hole!
Here is my question; our first Tortoise, “mrs. Turtle”, has one foot that is a stub. Its the back right foot. She still gets around well in spite of this, however, during the past few days she has been parked right on the cement, next to the studio door. I moved her onto the dirt and leaves, but she just came back.
I also offered her a banana and she did eat it. Its been very rainy and the property is very wet. I was wondering if she cannot get into her burrow?
I think she has several on one side of the property, some high and some low. I figured that if the water went into the lowers ones, she could escape to the higher ground. I did not expect to see her parked on the pavement for days! Is something wrong with her? Is there any thing I can do?
She seems to know us because we give her bananas and talk to her so I wish I could help her if she is needing help.
Hope to hear something!       Debbie

Hi Debbie,
There could be any number of things going on with her. She might, as you suspect, just be staying dry. If any of her burrows collapsed due to rain, she should be able to dig them out if she is healthy. If she is still not using a burrow and is staying outside all night, please take her to a wildlife rehabilitator to have her examined.
Please don’t feed the tortoises any “people food”. It’s not healthy for them and they need to be out foraging. Besides that, it is illegal to feed them, and also illegal to paint on their shells. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that is about making your yard attractive for tortoises. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. After you look it over, write me back if you have questions.
Thanks,       Becky

R scott, Subject: help i'm worried {stuck baby}, September 10, 2015
baby gopher tortoise on its side Hello! I have a baby gopher turtle in my front yard, it's very close to the front door. We've kept our peace and we leave the baby alone but it's gotten stuck in its hole sideways..I'm not sure how it happened. I've place him the right way once before but it's happened again. Is this normal? I helped it. I'm just curious. Also, I haven't seen the baby for a few days now...it's been here for four months now and I leave a small piece of washed organic lettuce every morning as I walk by and take my daughter to school. Is it possible the turtle is still in its hole or has moved to another place? I'm worried about the little thing. I know it's a wild animal but I just can't help myself. It's the smallest little thing. Maybe the size of my palm. I hope a predator hasn't gotten ahold of him. Oh that would be terrible. Any advice?

I had already sent a message last night regarding a baby gopher turtle. I forgot to mention we live in Dade city, Fl. I still haven't seen the baby. Could he be stuck in his hole? It's not usual for him to just not show up. Every morning he comes out. I'm concerned about him :( I know he's a wild tortoise but he's been in our yard since May..if not longer. That's when we found the hole... Usually baby toads will stay in his burrow with him when it's raining. It's an awesome experience. We loved having him in our yard.
With love,       Amanda

Hi Amanda,
I cannot imagine how that little thing got sideways in the burrow once, much less twice. Sorry, but I am completely stumped. Regarding his absence, tortoises will have more than one burrow that they use, so he may have gone somewhere else. He might eventually come back, too. I wish I could tell you he is just fine, but I can’t because the majority of hatchlings don’t make it to adulthood. All we can do is hope for the best, and maybe you will see him again someday!
Becky

From: Ellen, Subject: {Baby keeps coming back}, Date: September 9, 2015
Baby GT keeps coming back I found a baby turtle inn my garage bathroom, I moved him outside to the grasses where I have seen other gopher tortoises but it keeps coming back to the garage. I don't want to run over it...Any suggestions?

Please just keep taking it back. Do it in the morning before it gets too hot, or in the early evening after it cools off before dark. Don’t release it when it is raining. If there is a burrow, put it in there. If there aren’t any burrows, place it under some vegetation so it is hidden from predators. Hopefully, sooner or later, it will give up and stay home.
Becky

From: Laura, Subject: Habitat for threatened South Ga gophers, Date: September 9, 2015
We here in Georgia have noticed and are worrying about the construction of solar farms. Our official state tortoise is losing a large percentage of it's world, it's breeding lands.
A huge tax paying electrical company and producer of same is supposed to finish 500 different projects working to provide solar energy to more of it's customers. Great right? Yes of course!
Please read an article. Write. Me and let me know, don't you see how our ecosystem is going to suffer? Please write and help.
Thanks       Laura

Dear Laura,
If you have concerns about the solar farms and tortoises, please contact the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. They have legal jurisdiction over tortoises and are charged with their protection.
Becky

From: garmst6398, Subject: found baby gopher [ants}, Date: September 7, 2015injured baby
We have a large gopher hole and tortoise by our fence line. Today, I found a baby by the hole, flipped on its back, and covered with ants. I wash it off and left it where it was. Later, it was covered in ants again. Should I leave it to be eaten by ants? I haven't seen the big tortoise if a couple of weeks. I don't want to break the law but not sure if I should let nature takes it course because I feel the ants will kill it.
Thank you,       Laurel

Hi Laurel,
If you washed it off and gave it a second chance, and it still didn’t move away from the ants, it wasn’t going to live anyway. The vast majority of gopher tortoise hatchlings never live to adulthood; they are a source of food for lots of other animals.
That doesn’t make it any easier to watch. Thanks for caring.
Becky

From: Mister O, Subject: Yikes! Large hole beneath AC unit! What is this hole?, Date: September 6, 2015armadillo hole
Hello,
I'm hoping you can help me out with a hole issue. I noticed today there is a large hole underneath the AC unit of our home and I'm concerned it may damage the concrete sitting above.
We live in Lithia, FL within an area containing preserves/conservation areas for Gopher Tortoises. We actually had one feeding in our backyard today (and on several other occasions) however, we also have Armadillos!
Can you tell what type of a hole this is (see photos)? Is it an Armadillo hole or a Gopher Tortoise hole? I thank you in advance for any help you can provide.
Best regards,       Linko

Hi Linko,
It looks like an armadillo hole to me. Take a stick (not your hands, please) and see how deep it goes. If it is only a foot or two, or less, it isn’t something a tortoise is using as a burrow.
Becky

From: Connie, Subject: Gophers in the ocean!, Date: December 4, 2015
I walk the beach everyday and several times this year I have found gophers in the ocean swimming. Is this normal? I was once told that the salt would kill them, and seeing one in the surf I always would get them out. Today I spotted one that was having the time of his life in 3 feet of water.i won't bother them any moreover it is ok for them to be in the surf.
Thanks,       John

Hi John,
Apparently, it is fine for gopher tortoises to go for a swim in the ocean; I hear about it often and have seen it a couple of times myself. There is some thought that the saltwater removes external parasites. Maybe parasites have been particularly bad this year (very hot and rainy where I am located on the central Florida coast), but I have had more reports of ocean-going tortoises than ever before.
Becky

From: Ken, Subject: Are they nocturnal, Date: September 2, 2015
Do they come out and feed. By day or night

Gopher tortoises are typically diurnal (active during the day), but they have been documented many times feeding and walking around at night. That may happen when the weather during the day is too hot or rainy for them to be comfortable, so they go out when they can and are hungry.
Becky

From: Uday, Subject: Got bitten by rat, Date: August 30, 2015
I have tortoise at home well we don't know how but our tortoise got very badly injured the rat eated his whole legs meat the soft part he's bleeding and I don't know what to do please help!! We live in India

I don’t know your situation, but the tortoise needs medical attention as soon as possible. It is important for the wound to be cleaned and treated with antibiotics. If that is not possible for you to get, please write me back.
Becky

From: Julio, Subject: Help Please {What's this hole?}, Date: August 30, 2015
Hi, Becky. hole
My wife and I bought a house about a year ago in Thonotosassa, Fl close to Tampa. We know there are turtles (picture) of one is included. The backyard has a pond.
We noticed a small hole next to the planter and a larger one about 6 feet away about 6 months ago so we filled them in thinking it was just animals digging. This Friday our neighbor who mows our lawn said we had a much larger hole between the two. The grass had just caved in. We live in the capital of sinkholes so that's the first thing we are thinking. We filled in the new whole (see pictures). My neighbor thinks it's just a collapsed turtle den.
Have you ever heard of this happening because we are terrified of the possibility of having a sink hole.
Thank you for any information.
Julio & Candy

Hi Julio and Candy,
The turtle is one of the common water turtles we have in Florida. I can’t tell from the picture which species. None of them dig large holes like the one in your pictures. Gopher tortoises did large holes, but they typically have a sandy mound in front of them and go into the ground at a 45 degree angle or so (in other words, not straight down).
I am not sure what to tell you about sink holes, but I am pretty confident that your hole wasn’t caused by a turtle.
Becky

From: Robert, Subject: {termite poison}, Date: August 29, 2015
I talk to termite people about my tortoise and I have very sandy soil but they told me to ask an expert about the tortoise. Now I'm stuck about how long do I keep her away. They said it's not that strong of poison. HELP!!

I suggest you contact someone from the Desert Tortoise Council (http://www.deserttortoise.org/) and ask their advice. I am not familiar enough with desert tortoises or your California weather/habitat to make a good call.
Becky

From: J C, Subject: {Abandoned} Burrow Question, Date: August 27, 2015
I read the FWC definition of an abandoned burrow, but could find nothing about who officially makes that call. Both my regional FWC biologist and local authorized agent said if it fits the definition of abandoned then I could fill it in.

Personally, I am not comfortable with people who are not familiar with burrows deciding what can be filled in and what can’t. However, I get that the FWC folks or the agents don’t have time or manpower to go look at every single burrow and make the call. So, my rule of thumb is that if it would take a tortoise a whole lot of time and effort to make the burrow useable again, then call it abandoned. You could begin by filling it in lightly with dirt; if a tortoise is in there, it will still be able to dig out. If it is during the warmer seasons (>70°F), that should happen in a few days or less. If it is in the cooler time of year, tortoises may stay down in a burrow for months. My suggestion is that, if you can’t get an expert to look, use your common sense and err on the side of caution.
Or you can send me some pictures.
Becky

From: Robert, Subject: {termites control chemicals}, Date: August 27, 2015
Desert tortoise, how long does my tortoise have to stay away after ground treated for termites?
I'm in California

That will depend on the kind of chemical and the soil type where you are located. I suggest you read the label or ask the pest control company, and do your own research on line.
Becky

From: Margaret, Subject: may I feed the tortoise?, Date: August 25, 2015
We just moved to Florida and we are so lucky to have a gopher tortoise burrow in our back yard, We have seen him munching plants in our yard which is fine with me. May I leave it lettuce or carrots or celery or fruit for him at the entrance to his burrow as well or would that hurt him?
Margaret, Citrus County, Florida, near Hernando

Hi Margaret,
Welcome to Florida and congratulations on the new neighbor. Gopher tortoises are legally protected and you cannot feed them. However, you can do things to your yard, like keep the grass mowed short and plant native food plants that will make it a good home. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote on having tortoises in your yard. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. After you have looked it over, if you have questions, feel free to write me back.
Have fun!       Becky

 

From: Michael, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Edibles?, Date: August 24, 2015
I am creating a landscape plan for the replacement of exotic species removed recently from a park on a barrier island just south of Tampa Bay. The intention is to use only plants native to a backdune field, maximizing the inclusion of plants the park’s sizable gopher tortoise population could forage on.
Please comment on these to the extent of your knowledge, and link me to the person(s) or online material likely to be the most knowledgeable on foraging habits specific to this kind of location. Most of the studies and online articles focus on inland flatwood and sandhill locations, and few if any of the plants native there are also native on the barrier islands. My list currently includes (among others):
Aristida purpurascens, HILLSBORO THREEAWN - Canavalia rose, BEACH BEAN - Muhlenbergia capillaris, MUHLY GRASS - Paspalum vaginatum, KNOTGRASS - Ipomoea indica, OCEANBLUE MORNING-GLORY - Ipomoea imperati, BEACH MORNING-GLORY - Lycania michauxii, GOPHER APPLE - Parthenocissus quinquefolia, VIRGINIA CREEPER - Passiflora suberosa, CORKYSTEM PASSIONVINE - Smilax auricular, CATBRIER - Physalis walteri, GROUNDCHERRY - Trichostema dichotomum, FORKED BLUECURLS - Chamaecrista fasciculata, PARTRIDGE PEA - Serenoa repens, SAW PALMETTO - Chrysobolanus icaco, HORIZONTAL COCOPLUM - Ernodea litorallis, GOLDEN BEACHCREEPER - Opuntia stricta, PRICKLY PEAR - Spartina patens, SALTMEADOW CORDGRASS - Panicum amarum, BITTER PANICGRASS - Hymenocallis latifolia, SPIDERLILY.
Michael

Michael,
It is wonderful that you are getting out the exotics and going native. I am not a botanist and don’t know the plants that you need to choose for your specific area. The gentleman who knew the most about tortoise foraging and plants passed away several years ago. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that he wrote that includes a list of plants that tortoises eat. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. He also wrote an all-encompassing tortoise book: The Natural History and Management of the Gopher Tortoise by Ray Ashton and Patricia Ashton (Krieger Publishing Co., Malabar, FL; 2008).
Having a good native plant nursery will be very beneficial as well.
Becky

From: Danielle, Subject: Baby gopher {age?}, Date: August 22, 2015baby gopher tortoise
This baby is prob an inch and a half long. We found him in the street any ideas on how old? Thank you.

It is probably this year’s hatchling, so just a few weeks. If you kept it, please release it as close to where you picked it up as you can, out of harm’s way. Do this in the mid-morning or late afternoon, not the heat of the day and not during rain. Place it into a burrow if you find one, or underneath some vegetation or other cover to hide it from predators.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Cheryl, Subject: Gopher Tortoise or Armadillo Burrow?, Date: August 20, 2015
gopher or armadillo burrow I live in St. augustine, FL. Is this a gopher tortoise or armadillo burrow? I discovered a baby gopher tortoise in my front yard about a month ago although I haven't seen him since that one sighting. I am hoping he is still here. He was discovered when I was having native plants installed in my front yard. The installers thought he was a box turtle and they said he took off to parts unknown while they were working. However, at the end of the day we were discussing the new landscape and here he comes lickety split headed in a beeline across the new pine bark path straight for the Spanish Bayonet, where they had scared him from earlier, and burrowed down into the freshly laid pine straw. I recognized right away it wasn't a box turtle but a young gopher tortoise and was of course THRILLED. There was no burrow but I read on your page that sometimes the young ones don't dig a burrow but shelter under palm fronds or large leaves. I figured he was sheltering beneath the Spanish Bayonet. His shell was about 3" in diameter. He was seen on the NW corner of the house. This burrow is on the SE corner of the house.

Hi Cheryl,
It is not a typical adult tortoise burrow. However, no matter who dug it, a juvenile gopher tortoise might take advantage of it.
Becky

From: Delores, Subject: How to remove gopher tortoise, Date: August 17, 2015
I live next to a wooded area where many of these tortoises live. I like them and of course will always protect them. However; I have a problem. For about two years one had made a home going from my property under fence to neighbor (opposite side from wooded area). I protected it and had quite a mound (which I could not mow). I was happy to find that it had been abandoned so I filled in the hole and leveled off the dirt and started to mow grass in the area again. Well, lo and behold, that turtle remembered where she/he had previously homesteaded and I now have quite a hole in same location, tunneling under fence onto neighbor's property.

How can I relocate this little guy?

What state and county do you live in?
Becky

From: Sean, Subject: Turtle ID, Date: August 16, 2015box turtle
I am in the middle of rebuilding my vegetable beds and the the month or so between ripping out the old and today, weeds had taken over. Today I was pulling the weeds and found hatching turtles. The eggs were desiccated and I found two turtles. Can you help me identify them?

It is a Florida box turtle. Cute!!! Congratulations!
Becky

From: George, Subject: {Flooded Burrow}, Date: August 15, 2015
I had a turtle dig a burrow in the yard. It got flooded with all the rain here in the Tampa bay area. I noticed the other day it was flooded. And since no activity. Could he drown in there?

Tortoises will sit in flooded burrows and stick their noses out whenever they need to breathe. Often the water is warmer or cooler than the air temperature, so the water helps them stay comfortable (they are cold-blooded and can’t regulate their body temperature). Even if the tortoise dug the burrow before all of the rain, it could easily get out and move on if it gets tired of being wet.
Becky

From: Lee, Subject: question {very old tortoise}, Date: August 14, 2015
I live on 40 acres on Tampa Bay in Florida. There are a lot of gorpher tortoises on my land. One recently (5 days ago) was standing still at dusk, when most are going underground. It was lethargic and I waited until after dark to take it to a rehab. When I picked it up to put it in a box I noticed the back legs dangling. They kept it, soaked it (because it was constipated) and sent it back home with me. The gopher tortoise cannot walk though. It only pulls itself with its front pec fins (not sure what you call them).
I called the rehab back and they told me to just let her go and let nature take its course… please can you tell me what could be wrong with her? Maybe just age? She is very large. The vet said she was very skinny, not sure how they tell that. I have been feeding her romaine, iceberg, blueberries and apples. She has only moved a foot a day. I keep her covered with a homemade burrow… she is outside though.
Help?       Lee

Hi Lee,
Unfortunately, I don’t think you have too many options. There might be a vet with reptile experience where you could take her, but that could be expensive and pointless if she is just old or really sick and going to die anyway. There might be another rehabber in town that would take her. Or you could do what the first rehabber suggested and just let her go. She might recover, but it doesn’t sound likely. I wish I could tell you something to make it different, but I can’t.
Becky

From: Jay, Subject: New burrow {under house}, Date: August 14, 2015
I have a large female with a burrow under my house. I don’t have a problem with this and I toss scrap vegetables into my yard, which she seems to like. Tonight, I came home from work and there was a new burrow begun on the side of my house. She just dug it today and it’s about 2’ down into the ground so far. She’s not in it and I was wondering if it’s okay for me to fill it in. I really don’t want another burrow under my house and the location is an area where I wanted to plant a garden. Will she stop digging if I fill it in and am I allowed to fill it in?
Help!!!

Hello,
Legally, you are not supposed to interfere with a tortoise (including feeding) or disturb burrows. If she started digging the burrow and did not finish it and is not using it, you could fill it in.
I have attached a chapter from a workbook written by a friend of mine that deals with gopher tortoises in the yard. It is copyrighted material, so use if for your own education only, please. After you read it, feel free to write me back if you have questions or need more information.
Becky

From: Shelley, Subject: How do i keep my chihuahua from disturbing "Godfrey", Date: August 14, 2015
I have a little Gopher, (Godfey) who stayed in the vacant lot next to my house, he has been here for 1/12 yrs. To my surprise he has burrowed next to my house in my backyard! But.. my now blind 12 year old Chihuahua has sniffed his way right to Godfrey and I am afraid he will damage the burrow… Dogs do not like lemons, I am going to try training Coco to stay away by using lemons, they can’t stand the scent… but are Lemons ok around Gophers? Just want to be sure before I do more damage! Thanks for your time…
Shelley

Hi Shelley,
The only potential problem I see is that Godfrey will probably want to eat the lemons.
It has been my experience that, eventually, a dog will get tired of the totally boring tortoise and lose interest. Of course, Chihuahuas are special!
If you do it, let me know how it works.
Becky

From: Keith, Subject: herbicide/pesticide and the GT, Date: August 13, 2015
What effect do herbicides and pesticides have on the gopher tortoise?

Many common pesticides are labeled safe for use around animals, but science does not agree. There is large body of evidence to suggest that toxic chemicals both directly and indirectly impact turtles. A gopher tortoise might not die immediately if it ingests or is sprayed with common pesticides, but the genetic, endocrine, and other systems may be impacted, causing it to be less successful reproductively. Also, if you kill the vegetation in an area, what is the tortoise supposed to eat? Labels are misleading.
Becky

From: Linda, Subject: question {upside down}, Date: August 10, 2015
Hello,
I was riding my bike along the road and startled a fairly large gopher tortoise who ran for his lair, tumbled on his back adn went down the hole of his lair. I did try to pull him out and turn him over but he pulled himself deeper in. I spoke to a law enforcement officer nearby and he said he should be able to right himself in the lair. I didn't want to try and mess with him anymore since I didn't want to to get in trouble. Do you think he will be alright? I live near Vero Beach, Florida.
Thank you,       Linda

Hi Linda,
If the tortoise could touch the sides or top of the burrow with any of its legs, it should be able to right itself.
Becky

From: Petra, Subject: {Huge} Gopher tortoise removal, Date: August 10, 2015big tortoise
I have a huge one in my backyard that I am afraid of and so are my grandchildren because its so big. Who can I call to remove it? I live in Valdosta, Georgia.

The gopher tortoise is legally protected by the State of Georgia and is a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. It is doubtful that you can get a permit to remove it just because you are afraid. In reality, there is no reason for you or your grandkids to be afraid. Please read the information at the following websites and I think you will see that gopher tortoises are harmless, wonderful creatures. You and the kids are really lucky to have one in your yard that you can watch and enjoy!
http://www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/gopher-tortoise/
http://www.gophertortoisecouncil.org/
Becky

From: Kenna, Subject: Burrow under sidewalk, Date: August 9, 2015

Burrow under sidewalk

Hi Kenna,
Go to the FWC gopher tortoise page (http://www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/gopher-tortoise/) and look under permits. You can apply and they will let you know if you can get the tortoise moved or not.
If the burrow keeps getting flooded and the tortoise hasn’t been there very long, it may decide conditions aren’t good and move on.
I love the picture. Would you mind if I kept it to use in educational presentations? I will put the photographer’s first initial and last name on it.
Thanks,       Becky

From: 9736321044, Subject: {Tortoise & armadillo}, Date: August 8, 2015
Hi Becky! We have many golpher tortoise in our neighborhood. One, as a little tyke, burrowed ouner our house many years ago. We love observing him from a distance. Recently though several neighbors have complained of seeing armadillos using the borrow as well. One neighbor went so far as to put a trap at the entrance to catch them. We removed the trap and barricaids immediately! We want to keep the peace and are looking for alternate ways to drive the armadillos off our property leaving the tortoise be. Will the tortoisr eat moth balls? Do you have any other suggestions? Thank you!

A gopher tortoise typically digs several burrows within its home ranges. If an armadillo has stolen the tortoise’s burrow, the tortoise will just go live in another one of its burrows or will dig a new one.
Please don’t put out any kind of chemical deterrent. All types of animals, including tortoises, might be harmed.
Feel free to write back if you have questions or concerns.
Becky

From: John, Subject: {What to do with baby?},Date: August 3, 2015
Recent hatchling my girlfriend and I were pulling weeds at our landlords beach house today and we found a baby turtle underneath some ferns other than these friends there is no vegetation whatsoever in this yard or in any yardS aJason to it
and all these houses are right on the bay on the salt water can we send you a pic so you can identify him and better help us figure out what we should do with him

It is a very recently hatched gopher tortoise. Please take it back to where you found it and release it immediately. It is very important for it to get out and feed on the natural plants it is supposed to be eating. If you can put it back under the ferns, that would be perfect.
Thank you,       Becky

From: cpnb110510, Subject: Gopher tortoise in NYC, Date: August 3, 2015
My daughter was on vacation in Flordia and came across what she thought was a simple turtle. Against my wishes she brought it back with her. When i went to pick her up she was like surprise. I looked the features of the turtle and found out it is a gopher tortoise. I need to know what to do now.

Unfortunately, the tortoise cannot be returned to Florida once it has been carried out of the state. I suggest you look for a wildlife rehabilitator, zoo, or nature center that would be willing to take it. Better yet, make your daughter figure it out, and tell her that kidnapping wild animals is not only bad for the animals, it is sometimes (like this time) illegal.
Please let me know what you end up doing with the tortoise, or if you need help finding a home for it.
Becky

From: Melodie, Subject: Needing proper identification, Date: August 3, 2015

Immature gopher tortoiseIn May we found a small turtle in our fenced in backyard when our dogs began trying to go through the screen. I took pictures, and moved it to the other side of the fence so our dogs would not hurt it. I sent those pictures to another website, and they identified it as a box turtle. The next morning, the little guy was walking down the middle of the road in front of our home, so I went out to move him to the side. When I did, I noticed that he had a hole in his back and was bleeding, it appeared to be from a bird I'm guessing. Took a picture and sent it to the same guys. He told me that it was legal to keep him and nurse him back to health, or keep him long term. All was great until a friend stopped by last night. He looked in the tank, and said, "You have a gopher turtle?" I told him it was a box turtle, and explained what had happened, and he recommended I google it. I know that gopher turtles are protected, but I really believed that we had a box turtle. I just need to know what this really is, and if there is some way to tell them apart, because if our friend is correct, how could he have been misidentified from the beginning? Here is the pictures from the day we found him.

Hi,
It is a juvenile gopher tortoise, probably hatched last year. I suggest you take it outside and release it as close as you can to where you found it. If there are any burrows around, that would be a good place. Otherwise, put it under some vegetation so predators can’t easily see it. Do this in the morning or late afternoon, not in the heat of the day or during rain.
I wish I could promise you that he will stay out of trouble and grow up fine, but I can’t. However, releasing him is the best (and legal) thing to do. Under natural conditions, greater than 90% of gopher tortoise hatchlings get eaten before they are 1 year old. They are an important food source for lots of animals. So, take him outside, pat him on the head and wish him good luck, and let him go.
As far as being misidentified, it is always best to ask several people and to use the internet. You can’t imagine the things that people tell me they have or see. I have been in this business for 25+ years, and I still make mistakes! But not this time J
Feel free to write back if you have questions.
Becky

From: Lori, Subject: Gopher Turtle {under foundation}, Date: August 2, 2015

gopher tortoise
Hi!!
I am in need of some advice on a gopher turtle. We recently moved to SouthWest Florida, Sarasota to be exact, from eastern Pennsylvania. Our property backs up to a preserve so we have been seeing lots of critters many new to us. Today we discovered several large holes under our front door foundation as well as our garage foundation. We were told by a few locals that it could be an armadillo. After getting glimpse of the maker of the large holes, we believe it may be a gopher turtle. Two weeks ago my son took a picture of this guy in our yard. Can you confirm this is a gopher turtle? What steps do we take to relocate? The holes are large and I am afraid will undermine our foundation. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance

Lori

Hi Lori,
It is a gopher tortoise. They are a state-listed threatened species and a candidate for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Gopher tortoises like to dig where the dirt has been disturbed and often choose to burrow next to houses, pools, air conditioning units, etc. In 25+ years of working with tortoises, I have never heard of them causing damage to a structure. Their burrows are one way in and out, and typically go down at a 45 degree angle. The length of the burrow depends on the soil type, but 12 – 15 feet is average. I really don’t think you need to be worried about the tortoise damaging your property.
However, if you decide to pursue getting a permit to have someone relocate the tortoise, you can contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/sw/).
Feel free to write back if you have more questions.
Becky

From: Russell, Subject: Big gopher {?????}, Date: July 31, 2015
I saw this guy in my neighbors yard. I was wondering how old he might be. These guys are pretty common around this area but I have never seen one this big. This is a 4 foot tall chain length fence if that can be used to compare to the size of the gopher.
Thanks       Russell

It is an African spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata). Not native to North America. Hopefully, your neighbors are keeping it as a pet and it is not just wandering around the neighborhood. https://www.google.com/search?q=african+spur-thighed+tortoise&rls=com.microsoft:en-US:IE-Address&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&gws_rd=ssl
Becky

From: Kim, Subject: Tortoises and goats, : July 30, 2015
Is is harmful for tortoises to eat goat poop and the goat if they eat tortoise poop??

I doubt that either way will hurt any of them. Just don’t smell their breath.
Becky

From: karen, Subject: plants to add to my yard for gopher tortoise, Date: April 30, 2013
Hi! I have had a resident gopher tortoise living under my house almost next to my front door since I moved into the house (in NW Saint Johns County) in 2007. Amazingly, I’ve never seen him/her, but I’ve seen the tracks and the hole and mound are quite large.
I’d like a list of plants I can add to my landscape to benefit my little roomy. This can be sent to this email.
Thank you very much!
Sincerely,       Karen

Hi Karen,
Here you go. This is copyrighted material written by a friend of mine, so use it for your own education only, please. If you have any questions after you read it, write me back.
Becky

From: LaVerne, Subject: What Is the gestation of a Gopher?, Date: July 28, 2015
Hi,
I have a female gopher living in my back yard and I've seen the male come around during matiing season, and the male gopher cracks me up trying to get the females attention.
My question Is " How long dose Ms.Gracie ( named her after my mom, lol, lol. And yes I named the male after 2 of my mom's ex-husbands, lol, lol ) stay pregnant ?"
Thank You for your time. LaVerne

Hi Laverne,
Once the eggs are fertilized, they are laid in a nest (a cavity dug in the ground/sand and then covered); the tortoise does not give live birth. Nest incubation time ranges between 80 – 110 days, depending on latitude and incubation temperature. Average is 90 days.
Becky

From: Keila, Subject: Gopher and sulcata tortoise together, Date: July 24, 2015
Hi. We have a sulcata tortoise. He has made his burrow and roams freely in our enclosed backyard.
We found a gopher tortoise in the road and was thinking of taking him in but are worried that he may not get along with the sulcata.
Can they be harmful to each other? Are they capable of sharing a burrow? What are your thoughts?
Thank you!       Keila

Hi Kelia,
It is illegal to take in a gopher tortoise. They are a protected species. Please take it back where you found it and release it nearby, but out of harm’s way. Do this in the morning or late afternoon when it is not raining as soon as possible.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Teresa, Subject: Sulcata Tortoise Not Coming Out of Burrow, Date: July 23, 2015
I am in fear that our 6 year old sulcate tortoise is sick; he won’t come out of his burrow. I saw him last over two weeks ago walking around our back yard and saw him munching on dog food pellets on the lawn. Should I be alarmed and dig him out (deep burrow)? We live in Fresno, CA. Is there a reptile expert that you know I could send him to?
Thank y ou!       Teresa

Hi Teresa,
I can’t even pretend to know how to help you, but I have a couple of resources for you to check. Website links are attached.
https://www.facebook.com/316reptiles - This one is a reptile rescue located in Fresno. Probably your best bet.
http://www.cvherps.org/local-reptiles--amphibians.html - This is a herp society (people that love and raise amphibians and reptiles for fun). I would leave a message on their contact form.
Write me back and let me know what happens. Good luck!
Becky

From: jewelln, Subject: Creating a happy habitat for our gopher turtles, Date: July 22, 2015
Can you also send me your information on making our yard more appealing to gopher turtles? We just moved here last fall and have 3 gopher turtles in our yard that we love watching. We read they like the berries from sawtooth palmettos, but unfortunately did not read that until after we had destroyed most of the sawtooth palmettos in our yard. Thank you, Jewell

Hi Jewell,
Here you go. This is copyrighted material written by a friend of mine, so use it for your own education only, please. Feel free to write me back if you have questions after you go through it.
Good luck, and thanks for caring!       Becky

From: jebner7, Subject: New neighbor, Date: July 16, 2015

our tortoise
I'm so glad I found this website. After browsing it for the last hour or so I find that I'm not alone.
On Saturday I was cutting the grass and I found a pile of sand up against the fence. It was very strange because I had cut the grass 3 days earlier and it wasn't there. There was a hole and I couldn't see what was inside. I thought it might be a cat having kittens or something.
I got a flashlight and there was a tortoise looking at me. Since then I've seen "her" every day.
We live in Clermont (Lake County FL) on a small lot. She has been digging under a platform that I use to store my trash cans. The direction she is digging is heading toward underground utilities (electricity, Cable) Is this a problem? I think the burrow is about 4' from the utilities.
The burrow is between a fence and the house. it's only about 7' wide but she seems ok there.
Is it helpful to plant any beneficial plants?
Thank You
Jim
PS: those planks are 6" wide. Any guess as to her age?
PSS: Photo was taken from inside my house through a window!

Hi Jim,
I am glad you are willing to share your yard. The electric and cable wires are probably in some sort of conduit to protect them, so I imagine if she hits them, she’ll go around. If they are four feet out from the mouth of the burrow, she may already have dug under them. I don’t think she will damage them.
I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote about tortoises in yards. You will probably find the information useful. It is copyrighted material, so use if for your own education only, please. Write back if you have other questions.
Have a good weekend!       Becky

 

From: Diana, Subject: {Getting} Assistance for the gopher tortoises, Date: July 14, 2015
I do not know where to turn for information maybe you could suggest something. I live in spring hill Florida. One of my neighbors owns a lot next to their property where they live. The gopher turtles have homes on that lot. The homeowners are having dump trucks back on the lot and dumping loads of tree mulch there which is covering the holes. I have talked to wild life dept they say unless they see them dump the mulch they can do nothing. Also I called code enforcement they say they can't do anything. Can you offer advice? Thx. Diana

Hi Diana,
Please contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/sw/) and tell them what is happening. If you can get pictures, that might help. Also, document all of your phone calls, including the name of the people you speak to. You might also try contacting your county department of natural resources. How about the property owner? All of these people are legally responsible to protect gopher tortoises and their burrows.
Let me know if you get anywhere (or if you don’t).
Becky

From: Laura, Subject: Tortois {get calcium?}, Date: July 13, 2015
How do tortois get calcium, can they eat eggshells or sea shells?

I suppose that it is possible for them to get calcium from chewing on shells, but have never seen them do it. I have seen them in the road chewing on bones from animals that were killed by vehicles.
Becky

From: Amber, Subject: For research, Date: July 13, 2015
Hi, I am doing a research paper on a gopher turtle and I got a lot of good information just from this site, but I was wondering how long does one sleep? Are baby gophers like human baby's and sleep a lot? Thanks for the help. Amber

Tortoises are cold-blooded, so the activity level depends on the surrounding temperature. When it is warm, they will be active, and when it is cool (<70 degrees), they will not. Baby gophers have to go out and find their food, because unlike human babies, nobody is going to bring it to them.
Feel free to write back if you have more questions.
Becky

From: Elaine, Subject: Land in my area to be developed, Date: July 12, 2015
There is a piece of property up for rezoning and I am informed that there is a Gopher Tortoise burrow on the property. What can be done to protect the Tortoise and the burrow from destruction. The Orange Grove was leveled last year and I wonder if Tortoise burrows were destroyed in the process.
Henry

Hi Henry,
What state and county do you live in?
Becky

From: Sandy, Subject: Gopher Turtles {covered burrows}, Date: July 11, 2015
I had someone mow my property, telling them to be careful around the turtles burrows. Unfortunately, they covered over the openings. I don't know if the turtles were home or not. If they were, can they dig themselves out?

They will be able to dig themselves out and will likely appreciate all of the short, tender grass.
Becky

From: Lucy, Subject: {eggs} in Back Yard, Date: July 8, 2015
What should we act towards this nest in our back,yard?
It appears that a Gopher we have a resident Gopher Community living in a vacant lot next to our home, and it appears that one must have layed eggs in our yard......

The best thing to do is stay away from the nest so your scent doesn’t attract predators. Keep pets and kids away from it as well.
Becky

From: Diane, Subject: Golfer turtle {Keep shell?}, Date: July 8, 2015
I found a dead turtle. The shell is almost empty. Is it legal to move it,or keep it?

Not if it’s a gopher tortoise. If you email me some pictures, I will try to identify it.
Becky

From: +17728123399, Subject: {Care for eggs?}, Date: July 4, 2015
Who do I call when a gopher turtle has laid eggs in the back of our restaurant. I would like to make sure nobody disturbs the nesting. Lawnmowers, other animals, people, ect.

Have the eggs been deposited into a hole and covered, or are they laying on top of the ground? Did you see the tortoise? What state and county are you in?
Becky

From: Martha, Subject: Gopher turtles {anything special to help preserve these beautiful animals?}, Date: July 2, 2015
We have 4 gopher turtles on my property. I have owned the property for 10 years. My brother owned it for 30 years before he passed away. My question is... do I need to do anything special to help preserve these beautiful animals? I have always loved them and I never bother them. We are always happy to see them out walking and eating. They are so precious! They love eating out of my garden and my flowers. I say God made enough veggies and flowers for us and them. There is one on the property that I'm guessing to be around 20 - 25 years old. The slide into the den is about 2 - 3 foot long and at least a foot wide. They are safe here as we love wildlife. We have a visiting owl and whippowill.. plus lots of other birds. While other people are cutting trees..I choose not to cut so the animals have a safe haven to live. Please let me know if I need to let someone come and see the gopher turtles. Thank you..
I forgot to add. ..I live in Appling County, Baxley, Georgia. Thank you, Marth

Hi Martha,
I just love getting messages from people who get how lucky they are to have healthy, happy tortoises on their property. Have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote that has lots of information you should enjoy. It is copyrighted, so use it for your own education only, please. Feel free to write me back if you have questions after you look through the material.
Thank you!       Becky

From: Lucy, Subject: meat in Back Yard {eggs}, Date: July 8, 2015
What should we act towards this nest in our back,yard?
It appears that a Gopher we have a resident Gopher Community living in a vacant lot next to our home, and it appears that one must have payed eggs in our yard......

The best thing to do is stay away from the nest so your scent doesn’t attract predators. Keep pets and kids away from it as well.
Becky

From: Diane, Subject: Golfer turtle {Empty shell}, Date: July 8, 2015
I found a dead turtle. The shell is almost empty. Is it legal to move it,or keep it?

Not if it’s a gopher tortoise. If you email me some pictures, I will try to identify it.
Becky

From: +17728123399, Subject: {protect eggs}, Date: July 4, 2015
Who do I call when a gopher turtle has laid eggs in the back of our restaurant. I would like to make sure nobody disturbs the nesting. Lawnmowers, other animals, people, ect.

Have the eggs been deposited into a hole and covered, or are they laying on top of the ground? Did you see the tortoise? What state and county are you in?
Becky

From: Martha, Subject: {Caring for our} Gopher turtles, Date: July 2, 2015
We have 4 gopher turtles on my property. I have owned the property for 10 years. My brother owned it for 30 years before he passed away. My question is... do I need to do anything special to help preserve these beautiful animals? I have always loved them and I never bother them. We are always happy to see them out walking and eating. They are so precious! They love eating out of my garden and my flowers. I say God made enough veggies and flowers for us and them. There is one on the property that I'm guessing to be around 20 - 25 years old. The slide into the den is about 2 - 3 foot long and at least a foot wide. They are safe here as we love wildlife. We have a visiting owl and whippowill.. plus lots of other birds. While other people are cutting trees..I choose not to cut so the animals have a safe haven to live. Please let me know if I need to let someone come and see the gopher turtles. I live in Appling County, Baxley, Georgia.
Thank you,       Martha

Hi Martha,
I just love getting messages from people who get how lucky they are to have healthy, happy tortoises on their property. Have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote that has lots of information you should enjoy. It is copyrighted, so use it for your own education only, please. Feel free to write me back if you have questions after you look through the material.
Thank you!       Becky

From: bobbie, Subject: Baby gopher {from road}, Date: June 30, 2015
I live in Jacksonville, FL. My husband almost ran over a baby gopher last night in the middle of the road. He brought it home so he would not die. We have woods behind my home. We have all sorts of animals that live in the woods as well. I am afraid to let him go there. Is there a rescue place that I can take him to that will care for him until he is able to go free?
Thank you,       Bobbie

Hi Bobbie,
The best (and legal) thing to do is take the baby back to where your husband picked it up and let it go out of harm’s way. It may wander back into the road, but, hopefully, it will dig a burrow and eat the plants that are in its home range. Putting it somewhere unfamiliar is just asking to get it eaten by a predator. If you take it to a rehabber, they should not let it go because it won’t know how to take care of itself. I know it is hard, but just take it back. Do it in the morning or late afternoon, not in the heat of the day or when it’s raining. Wish it luck and let it go.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Brandon, Subject: Minnesota tortoise, Date: June 27, 2015
Hello, a coworker of a friend found a gopher tortoise crossing the road more than a week ago and brought it to the campground where they keep rescued wildlife and some farm animals... I observed the animal's behavior and it is likely that it was a wild tortoise but the catch is we are in Minnesota. Yes that's right, it was found wandering around in the middle of Minnesota, I think somebody brought it from Florida and it somehow got loose. We are not sure what to do with her, any suggestions? We hope to be able to feed her the proper diet and give the ideal setup for the time being.

Hi,
Please send me some pictures.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Jody, Subject: found gopher {??}, Date: June 26, 2015sulcata tortoise
Hi,
My husband found this quite large gopher on the side of the road in the city yesterday. We believe that it was kept as a pet as it is very friendly and in an area where there was no available habitat. He was concerned that it would be ran over as there was no place safe for it to go. We now have it in our fenced in 1 acre backyard. We live in southern Mississippi and we know that they are protected. We are concerned for the safety of the turtle. We would like to relocate it to a safe habitat. We have over 15 acres of land in the country that we could release it on but we are afraid that if it was a pet it is used to being fed by humans, any advice?
Thanks!       Jody

Hi Jody,
I have a feeling it is not a gopher tortoise, but an African spurred tortoise, aka sulcata tortoise. If you can send me some more pictures, especially of the front legs and put something in the pictures for size perspective, I will be able to tell better. You can also Google African spurred tortoise (not spur-thigh tortoise – they are two different animals) and look at pictures.
If it is a sulcata, they are not particularly easy to keep, especially in Mississippi where it gets cold (at least for a tortoise from Africa). They are the third largest tortoise species in the world and they like to dig. If you have the room, resources, and desire to keep it, they can be very fun, but not something to be jumped into lightly. It likely ended up where it did because someone bought it without doing their homework and decided to release it, or it escaped. You might try putting up some signs or otherwise advertising in the area where you found it that you have it and the owner might come forward.
I have attached a couple of websites that have sulcata information so you can see for yourself. If you decide not to keep it, you should find somewhere to take it; leaving it on its own will be a death sentence this winter, if not before. If you need help finding a place for it, I will do my best.

http://www.anapsid.org/sulcata.html
http://home.earthlink.net/~rednine/sulcatacare.html
Thanks,       Becky

From: Laura, Subject: Poisonous to gopher tortoises?, Date: June 25, 2015
Hi. I recently bought a home in Charlotte County. Is fire ant killer toxic to gopher tortoises? What about a natural lawn food advertised as safe around kids and pets? And are there any plants that are toxic to gopher tortoises that I should avoid planting? I see lists online of plants that are nutritious for them, but not harmful ones that they might eat. Thanks for your guidance.


I suggest that you find "natural" alternatives to use in your yard. Although many of the commercial pest control chemicals claim to not be harmful, that only means that laboratory animals did not die when exposed. There are not studies on wildlife that spend their lives on the ground and/or eat the plants that have been treated. There are a number of non-toxic methods to deal with fire ants, including hot water. Do some research on-line.
Gopher tortoises, and most wild animals, are smart enough to not eat plants that would hurt them, especially if the plants are native and they have evolved with them. Avoid planting exotics, or ask your county extension agent if specific exotic plants are harmful.
Becky

From: Kristie, Subject: New resident on my property, Date: June 25, 2015
Hi Becky,
I live in east Orlando on about an acre and there are about 25 acres of woods across the street. We’ve seen lots of holes on my property and in the woods, however we rarely see the turtles/tortoises.
For the past month or so one that I’m pretty certain is a gopher tortoise has burrowed under our shed and he/she can be seen sitting at the entrance to the burrow.
My questions are:
Is it likely that its a female laying eggs? (I’m thinking yes based on researching gopher tortoises thus far)
If so, what can we do to keep the youngsters protected? (We’ve lost some chickens in the past to foxes or coyotes, there are a couple of neighborhood cats that come in the yard, and I’ve heard there is a bobcat on the other side of the neighborhood too.)
Will this tortoise reside with us for a long time or will she leave once the – if there are any – eggs hatch and the youngsters leave? (I read that the babies may stay with her for up to a year?)
Is there much chance we will get to see the babies?
We don’t bother the tortoise, we just peek and place leaves, lettuce, and such, near the entrance, mostly from our garden although much of our produce and flowers are burning up from the heat, we don’t have a lot of shade.
Thanks,       Kristie

Hi Kristie,
It is great that you have a new neighbor, and that you are happy about it! Some of your questions I can’t answer for sure, but I will tell you what I think.
The tortoise is no more likely a female than a male. We believe that females choose their nest site based on the temperature for egg incubation, and they often place them in the apron of a burrow into a hole they dig. There is no parental care for the nest, the eggs, or the kids once they hatch. If there is a nest at your shed, the best thing to do to protect it is stay away from it so there is no scent to attract predators. You can also try to keep the neighbors’ cats from coming over.
If there are eventually babies, you may see them. They tend not to travel very far from where they hatch for a year or two. They will either dig small burrows, use the adult’s burrow, or hide under vegetation or other things close to the ground in your yard.
I also can’t tell you if the tortoise will stick around or not. They typically have several burrows within the home range, so it may leave for other places, or it could stay in your yard, or both, depending on the time of year, weather, other tortoises, etc. It is very hard to predict.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions.
Becky

From: Tim, Subject: Digging, Date: June 24, 2015
We have one that's making a home and I'm afraid it's causing property damage is there away to remove them safely, if so who would I contact .
Thank you : Tim

Hello Tim,
What state and county do you live in?
Becky

From: Tim, Subject: Digging, Date: June 24, 2015
We have one that's making a home and I'm afraid it's causing property damage is there away to remove them safely, if so who would I contact .
Thank you : Tim

Hello Tim,
What state and county do you live in?
Becky

From: Shelly, Subject: New House Turtle Roaming for Five Days Now, Date: June 22, 2015
Hello,
We just moved into a home that we purchased. On the third day of moving we noticed a turtle walk across the path from the driveway to the front steps. It was hanging out in the flowerbed. The next day I was picking weeds and noticed it right next to me digging a hole. This morning I opened the garage and my daughter and I noticed it underneath my car in the driveway. It then quickly walked to the back of our garage and wouldn't come out. My mother was just at our home and she couldn't close the garage door because it was between the garage and driveway and she was afraid it'd get crushed. There are no bodies of water near us. The previous owners did not have a pet. Since it was digging a hole I feel like it wanted to lay eggs but am not sure. Do you know what kind of turtle this could be? Is it dangerous? Why is it so fond of our garage? What should we do?

Hi,
Is the turtle still hanging around? If so, please send me some pictures.
Becky

From: Shelly, Subject: New House Turtle Roaming for Five Days Now, Date: June 22, 2015
Hello,
We just moved into a home that we purchased. On the third day of moving we noticed a turtle walk across the path from the driveway to the front steps. It was hanging out in the flowerbed. The next day I was picking weeds and noticed it right next to me digging a hole. This morning I opened the garage and my daughter and I noticed it underneath my car in the driveway. It then quickly walked to the back of our garage and wouldn't come out. My mother was just at our home and she couldn't close the garage door because it was between the garage and driveway and she was afraid it'd get crushed. There are no bodies of water near us. The previous owners did not have a pet. Since it was digging a hole I feel like it wanted to lay eggs but am not sure. Do you know what kind of turtle this could be? Is it dangerous? Why is it so fond of our garage? What should we do?

Hi,
Is the turtle still hanging around? If so, please send me some pictures.
Becky

From: Teri, Subject: Gopher Tortoise burrow right next to foundation, Date: June 20, 2015
Hi, I just noticed a gopher tortoise burrow right up next to the foundation this morning on my new home i had built in Lithia, FL. Will you email me your material on what to do with these on your property please? I intend to contact the Florida Wildlife Commission as I know they are protected. Thanks.

Hi,
Here is the information you requested. It is copyrighted, so use it for your own education only, please. If you have any questions after you have looked it over, write me back.
Becky

From: Teri, Subject: Gopher Tortoise burrow right next to foundation, Date: June 20, 2015
Hi, I just noticed a gopher tortoise burrow right up next to the foundation this morning on my new home i had built in Lithia, FL. Will you email me your material on what to do with these on your property please? I intend to contact the Florida Wildlife Commission as I know they are protected. Thanks.

Hi,
Here is the information you requested. It is copyrighted, so use it for your own education only, please. If you have any questions after you have looked it over, write me back.
Becky

From: Brigid, Subject: Calif desert tortoise digging with hind legs, Date: June 14, 2015
I recently adopted a breeding pair of Calif Desert tortoises. They are quite old.. The female in her 70's and the male in his 60's. They have been breeding through the month if April . The female has been digging with her hind legs in two locations in the backyard, both sort of under the concrete slab near the patio. Both holes are quite shallow and appear empty. Does this mean she is preparing to lay eggs or is she just digging out of habit?
Brigid
Date: June 14, 2015: Thank you, Becky! If she were to lay eggs where she is digging, there is a sprinkler head that comes on once a day. Should I turn that off? Also, if she does lay eggs, will I see them or will they be completely covered and tamped down?

Hi Brigid,
It is hard to say what is going on with that. She may be infertile or the male might be; she would eventually shed any eggs that she is carrying, even though they wouldn’t hatch. Or they both might be fine and she is just getting ready. Keep your eyes open!
Becky

healed shellFrom: amy, Subject: {healed shell}, Date: June 14, 2015
This was under my car this morning when I went outside. Is it a gopher tortoise?

Yes, it is a gopher tortoise. Looks like it didn’t learn about sitting under cars the first time! Would you mind if I kept the pictures for use in educational talks? I will put the photographer’s first initial and last name on the photo.
Becky

From: Jessica, Subject: Gopher and red footed tortoises mating, Date: June 13, 2015
Can a female gopher tortoise and a red footed male tortoise mate?

They cannot successfully reproduce, but that is not to say they might not act like they want to.
Becky

From: Anis, Subject: Hi {What kind of turtle?}, Date: June 10, 2015
Hi please help me. I just wanna know what is my tortoise's breed or its name. It's been 2 years he's been living with me but i couldn't find anything like my tortoise. It's a normal tortoise tho because i found him in a ditch. And how to know whether its a male or a female

It is not a tortoise, it is an aquatic (water) turtle. If you send me some more pictures of the top, bottom, and side of the head, I will be able to tell you what kind.
Becky

From: Mels, Subject: Creating and Maintaining a Tortoise-Friendly Environment, Date: June 9, 2015
Becky,
I searched your website because I have a lot of burrows and at least a dozen tortoises on my property. I keep trying to learn more about them (plants they eat, etc.) to make sure the 1.5 acre environment is tortoise friendly. It sounds like a lot of things I've wondered about (like how close to the burrows to mow) would be answered by the workbook you refer to. How can I get a copy?
Thank you.       Melanie

Hi Melanie,
This is a chapter from a workbook created by a friend of mine. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. Feel free to write me back if you have more questions after you look at it.
Becky

From: TAZ, Subject: Did our Tortoise just lay eggs?, Date: June 6, 2015
Our Tortoise dug a deep hole right outside the entrance to her home. It took about an hour to dig all the time looking like she was going to throw up, her head kept straining? I could not stay any longer, but when I returned she was covering the hole. We feed her Watermelon, tomato's, carrots, asparagus tops, strawberries. If she did lay eggs, what can we do to keep predator's away and can we do anything to help the little one’s survive?
Thanks; Mike

Mike,
What kind of tortoise is it, and are you keeping it as a pet? Sounds like egg-laying behavior to me.
Becky

From: Anna, Subject: Found a turtle, Date: June 5, 2015
I was coming from school and seen a turtle (or what I thought was a turtle) crossing the road I pullover and took it home so I could take it to a water source later since I had to be at work once I got home my husband informed me that it looked like a tortoise after some research it looks to be a gopher tortoise I called a local animal hospital and they said to find some woods and release it? I put him/her in the back yard and it went into our garden where it seems to be walking around. I live in augusta georgia

Please take it back to where you found it and let it go out of harm’s way. Any woods or vegetation will be fine, as long as it is close to the place where you picked it up. Do this in the morning or early evening (not after dark) so it can find its way to a burrow before it gets too hot.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Lynnae, Subject: Need help identifying tortoise, Date: June 3, 2015

Sulcata
Hello, for the past few days I've had this tortoise pushing under the fence from the large horse property behind us. I contacted a wildlife rehabilitator who believes this is a gopher tortoise after viewing this photo. I asked my local vet, and he believes it's not a gopher tortoise due to its large size. Is this a sulcata tortoise? It is about 2.5 - 3 ft long and about 2 ft wide. New to Florida so not familiar with local wildlife. Want to make sure it gets care it needs - have two large dogs and don't want it getting injured. Thanks for the help!
Lynnae (Lakeland, FL)

Lynnae,
You are right, it’s a sulcata. Someone either released it, or it escaped. If it escaped, the owner might be looking for it, so if you have any way of letting people know you have it, like posting signs in the neighborhood, that would be a good solution. However, if no one claims it, you will need to find somewhere to take it (and definitely not to the rehabber who said it is a gopher tortoise, please). Letting it run around loose is not a good option because it could easily die when winter comes, and sulcatas dig huge holes that might injure someone or more likely, a horse.
The link below is to a reptile rescue website. Scroll down to Polk County; there are two places listed. Also below are two contacts I found on a herp veterinarians page; I don’t even know if these folks are still around, but they might be able to help place the tortoise with a good home. Zoos and nature centers might also help, but make sure they know what they are getting, please.

http://reptile.rescueshelter.com/Florida

Theresa Merkle, DVM
Polk County Animal Hospital
7433 US Highway 98, North
Lakeland, FL 33809
Tel: (863) 858-2252
Nola Z. Gedeon, DVM
Marcum Road Animal Hospital
131 Marcum Road
Lakeland, FL 33809
Tel: (863) 858-1718

Please let me know what happens with this animal, and if I can help do anything else.
Becky

From: Gary, Subject: Two dogs with invisible fence, Date: June 2, 2015
We have an new resident in our yard – a gopher tortoise that has built a burrow, and is moving about quite frequently. We have two schnoodles (schnauzer/poodle mix) that are 3 years old and medium sized. They have an invisible fence, and have free run of the yard. They are very interested in their new neighbor, but they are very gentle dogs and wouldn’t harm the turtle directly. I’d like to know if the turtle has the capacity to harm the dogs in any way. Also, will the dog’s curiosity with the turtle and his/her burrow be too much for the turtle? Will it feel “harassed”, and will that affect its ability to maintain a healthy existence in our yard? Thanks for your help – Gary

Hi Gary,
The tortoise won’t hurt your dogs, but I don’t know how it will react to their attention. In my experience, after a while the dogs will lose interest and leave the tortoise alone. There’s not really much you need to do, as long as you are confident your dogs won’t physically harm the tortoise. If it is happy there, it will stay. If it’s not, it won’t!
Feel free to write back if you need more information.
Becky

From: kelsie, Subject: County services, Date: June 2, 2015
I live in Brevard county. Behind my house is a ditch line that runs to a lake. The county is always trenching the ditch and making it wider. The county does not relocate the gophers that live around the ditch before they trench it. So every time, they kill at least 3-4 gophers and that's just around my house. The ditch is long so I imagine they kill a lot more. I've filed a complaint with the county as well as with FWC. I would like to know if I can do anything else to stop this.
Thank you.       Kelsie

I live in Brevard County and find this to be very disturbing. Will check it out and get back to you. Will you tell me what town you live in, please?
Becky

From: Jeffrey, Subject: FW: {Burrow danger to children?}, Date: June 1, 2015burrow
This is probably not a great photo of it; but, I'm hoping it's a gopher tortoise. I know we've seen them in the yard and have the tale tell signs of the mounds all throughout.
Our concern isn't the interactions so much as the inquisitive nature of our little girl who might try to follow one down the burrow.
Jeff

Hi Jeff,
Looks like a tortoise burrow to me. I don’t know how old your daughter is, but growing up around tortoises (and any other wild animals) is a tremendous gift that can potentially shape her life in a good way. Teach her to be respectful, but not afraid. She is a lucky girl! I can say this from my own personal experience and what I shared with my daughters when they were growing up. I am proud of the kind, loving women they are now, and I firmly believe that appreciating nature and its creatures has much to do with the way they live their lives.
Becky

From: Jeffrey, Subject: gopher tortoises on our property, Date: May 30, 2015
We have 2.5 acres in North Apopka
We have some very active tortoises here; but, we want to start gardening. We also have toddlers.
Will the tortoises dig up under our gardening and destroy our crops?
We’ve also recently found a huge burrow underneath a large mulch pile. And lastly – could they be burrowing under our house? I’ve noticed my front brick posts cracking a bit.
Jeff

Hi Jeff,
Legally, you have to stay 25 ft. away from any gopher tortoise burrows, unless you have a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to relocate them. That can be expensive, so I would try to work around them. To protect your garden, put some fencing around it that you bury 6 inches or so under the ground. You are going to need to fence your garden anyway to keep out the rabbits, raccoons, etc., etc., that live in Florida and want easy pickings.
Regarding your house, gopher tortoise burrows start at the mouth and typically extend 12 – 20 ft. They have only one entrance/exit, and while some burrows have a split, the tortoises do not dig a network of tunnels. If your bricks are cracking and you do not see a burrow entrance nearby, you may have armadillos, moles, or water seepage causing a problem.
Please send me some pictures of the burrow under the mulch pile. That does not sound like something a tortoise would do.
Gopher tortoises are not aggressive and do not bite. I hang out with a number of toddlers (grandkids) and I would be more concerned about the tortoises’ safety than theirs. J Just teach the kids to watch the tortoises, be respectful of them (not afraid), and not to be mean to them. They will remember those animals and lessons for the rest of their lives. We need that in our world.
I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote about coexisting with gopher tortoises. It is copyrighted material so use if for your own education only, please. After you look it over, feel free to write back if you want more information.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Dave, {Subject: What species?}, Date: May 28, 2015box turtle
I found him in North Carolina can you tell me what species he is?

It is an eastern box turtle. If you intend to keep it as a pet, please read the care sheet webpages attached below. It is easy to keep a turtle, but not that easy to keep a turtle healthy, so do your best to do it right. If you decide not to keep it, don’t release it unless you can take it back where you got it. If you don’t want it and don’t know what to do with it, write me back.
http://www.austinsturtlepage.com/Care/cs-easternboxie.htm
http://www.gctts.org/boxcare
Thank you,       Becky

From: Laura, Subject: Help my tortoise ate a chicken bone, Date: May 28, 2015
Hello my yellow footed tortoise has eaten a chicken bone she got in to the bin & ate a little peace of bone she is 16 years old & weighs over 3 kilos will she be ok?
Date: May 28, 2015: Thank you so much for your advice it's eased my mind a lot

I am not a vet, so I can’t promise anything, but gopher tortoises have been documented eating bones from road kill. Presumably they do it to get calcium. My guess is that your tortoise will be fine, but keep an eye on it for a couple of days. Take it to a vet if you see any signs of blockage or choking.
Becky

From: Floyd, Subject: Do gopher tortoises use rocks in building their nest or to obtain salt from?, Date: May 26, 2015stone in mouth
Found this tortoise a long a trail in Jacksonville FL especially since I noticed the bright white colored stone in his (or hers) mouth. I then began to wonder why the strange behavior carrying a stone in its mouth, any suggestions? (maybe he wanted me to play some rock music or wanted to let me know he was stoned).

Hi Floyd,
Gopher tortoises have been documented chewing on bones, presumably for the calcium, but I have never seen one chewing on a stone (maybe it had the munchies). Apparently, it needed something that the stone was providing. Would you mind if I keep that picture to use in educational talks that I do occasionally? If you will email me your last name, I will credit you on the picture (first initial, last name).
Thanks,       Becky

From: jane, Subject: Gopher egg, Date: May 26, 2015
We live in n.central florida. Many gophers live here. This morning my husband found a gopher tortoise just outside its burrow, but flipped on its back and struggling to right itself. He righted the gopher and it went into its burrow. When my husband found the tortoise, right next to it was an egg. He left it for a few hours, went back, and found the egg still there. I have been unable to find any info about their egg-laying. He eventually covered the egg with sand, but we would like to know what would be the right course of action.
Thanks in advance,       Jane

Hi Jane,
When gopher tortoises “fight”, they often try to turn each other over onto their backs. Usually, they can eventually right themselves, but if not, they could die because of heat, cold, or predation.
Not sure how an egg would have ended up next to the tortoise, unless she shed it when she turned over. Regardless, if it sat out for any length of time, it is very unlikely to hatch. Somebody will come along and have a nice meal!
Feel free to write back if you need more information.
Becky

From: Meri, Subject: I moved this guy out of the street should I have done more?, Date: May 26, 2015

The best thing to do is move it out of harm’s way, but not far from where you found it.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Janet, Subject: Found eggs ..., Date: May 26, 2015
Someone found some Gopher Tortoise eggs, but they are not in a safe place. There is a great possibility these eggs will be stepped on or run over or worse. We didn’t see a burrow … but want to save the tortoises. What should we do ?
Thank you!

If you found eggs outside of a nesting hole, they are not going to be viable and hatch. If they are in a nest, the best thing to do is leave them alone. You could mark an area around the nest with flagging tape or pin flags, but be careful not to penetrate the nest cavity.
Becky

From: Andi, Subject: Open nest, Date: May 25, 2015
Yesterday we saw a gopher tortoise laying her eggs by our fence. Today we checked the nest and saw 7 eggs outside of the nest. What is the likelihood these eggs will hatch?

If the eggs sat out overnight or longer, they most likely will not hatch.
Becky

From: 9045897518, {Subject: What to do with baby?}, Date: May 22, 2015,
I have found a baby gopher and I don't know what I should do with it

Please take it back to where you found it and release it out of harm’s way. A gopher tortoise burrow or underneath some vegetation will work. Do this in the mid-morning or early evening (i.e., not during the hottest part of the day) and avoid rain.
If you can’t do this for some reason, please write me back.
Thank you,N. D. juvenile

From: Julia, Subject: Friend found baby tortoise, Date: May 20, 2015
He found it in his driveway in his suburban neighborhood. I'm not sure if it's a gopher tortoise. If so where to release it considering there isn't really any brush or nature around

It is a juvenile gopher tortoise. Please take it to the vegetation closest to where you found it and let it go. Do this in the late morning or early evening when it is not blazing hot or raining. If there are no burrows around, put it under some vegetation so it will be protected from predators and heat.
If there really is nowhere close to put it, you can take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. If you need help finding one, send me your state, county, and city names and I will try to help.
Becky

found walking

From: Sarita, Subject: Turtle identification Georgia USA, Date: May 20, 2015
I found this turtle walking down our dirt road in southern Georgia. By the time I got my camera it had veered off into the neighbors yard. I didn't want to bother it since it seemed to be on a mission so I just took a couple pictures of it from above. Could you tell me what kind of turtle it is?

It looks like a gopher tortoise.
Becky

From: Diane, Subject: Average cost and timeframe to get gopher tortoise relocated and land approved for building, Date: May 19, 2015
Port Charlotte, FL
What is the average both in cost and time to get a gopher tortoise permit approved and tortoise released to an approved site in order to commence development.
I have relocated to Florida to a rental home while our house is built and find the entire process is on hold due to tortoise issues. We had no prior knowledge of the potential for this and delays are going to cost us 1000’s of dollars – additionally I have a handicapped husband who is suffering from conditions in rental home so your answers are critical to our plans.
Diane

Hi Diane,
The answers to your questions are dependent on a number of things, such as how many burrows/tortoises are in the way of the development, and if there is room on site for the relocation or if they have to be relocated off site. My suggestion is two-fold. First, contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and talk to a tortoise biologist. They should be able to connect you with someone that can do a survey and help estimate the cost and timing of relocation. Once you know what you have as far as number of tortoises, you can go on-line and get your own permit, or work with someone that already has a permit (maybe the same person that does the survey).

http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/sw/ - Southwest Regional Office FFWCC
http://www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/gopher-tortoise/ - gopher tortoise information
http://www.myfwc.com/license/wildlife/gopher-tortoise-permits/ - permit information
Is there any way you could build your house and stay at least 25 ft. away from the burrows? If so, no relocation would be required. Perhaps the person who does the survey could help with that.
Feel free to write me back if you need more information.
Becky

From: Donnie, Subject: Gopher Tortoise on a construction site, Date: May 17, 2015
Hi Becky,
Thanks for the informative website! We just found a gopher tortoise that had dug a hole and laid eggs on a construction site in our subdivision. Fish & Wildlife said the builders will have to call to have it relocated when they see it tomorrow, so we roped off the area and left a sign.
I called the building company (a salesperson at a model home, because nobody else is at work on a Sunday). She emailed the foreman, but she said she was pretty sure that the original developer had paid around $10,000 to the state for gopher tortoises to not be considered protected in this development. I can't find anything like that on the FWC website, but have you ever heard of anything like this? If it's true and FWC won't do anything, is there anybody else we can have come relocate the eggs?
Thanks,       Donnie

Hi Donnie,
It is no longer legal for a developer to pay to “take” gopher tortoises, their eggs, or destroy burrows. If you will tell me what county the development is located in, I can send you the contact information for the appropriate person to call.
Becky

From: ND, Subject: Gopher tortoise & radiation from cell phone towers., Date: May 17, 2015
I live in N. E. Florida (Nassau County) and my land backs onto an aquatic preserve. I have two gopher tortoise burrows on my land and from time to time I see them. When I bought this land over twenty years it had much wildlife that has since vanished, ospreys, bats, fireflies, possums and rabbits (although I still have Florida marsh rabbits) are five examples. I maintain my land naturally by composting, having free range hens for insect control and do not use any chemical fertilizers or insecticides.
Although cell phone coverage is more than adequate in this area there is a proposal to put up a 200ft high cell phone tower near me. I am not against cell phone towers but this is a rural area and there are plenty of other places where it could be placed without impacting my property and the aquatic reserve.
So, my specific question for you is: Do you know of any studies which indicate that gopher tortoises are impacted by radiation from cell phone towers?
Thanks in advance,       N. D.

Hello,
I don’t know of any radiation studies specific to gopher tortoises, but the two articles linked below may be of use to you. Two points I would stress in your arguments are: dangers to wildlife have not been documented well, but are certainly suspected by the science community; and the value of your property will decrease as a result of the tower.
If you can find out which company wants the new tower, you might be able to get them to negotiate with other nearby tower owners and get a sharing deal.

http://www.saferemr.com/2014/03/dept-of-interior-attacks-fcc-regarding.html
http://naturalsociety.com/cellphone-tower-emr-damaging-birds-insects-humans/
Good luck, and write me back if you need more information.
Becky

From: Olivia, Subject: HELP ASAP {baby in driveway}, Date: May 18, 2015
I just found a baby gopher tortoise in my driveway and after moving it so that we could safely pull the car in I realized this little guys eyes are shut and I'm not sure what's wrong. There are several burrows on our property and I was wondering if I should release him into any one of them or are they territorial. Also is there anything I can do to help his closed eye problem before I release him ?? Thank you.

Hello,
The best (and legal) thing to do is release it. Take it to one of the burrows near where you found it; young tortoises often use adult tortoise burrows, so it won’t be kicked out by someone larger. I cannot promise that it will be ok, but it needs to be out on its own to find the proper food and learn the area. Pat it on its head, wish it well, and let it go.
Thank you!       Becky

From: Thomas, Subject: {County} land for sale with gopher tortoises, Date: May 12, 2015
Dear Becky,
The property behind my house in the Springs of Suntree, Melbourne, FL, currently called “government managed land” (114 acres) is now out for bid by the Brevard County Commission. It is north of Spyglass Rd, west of Pinehurst Rd, and east of the wetlands preserve on Murrell Rd. The appraisal says there are possibly 400 gopher tortoises there.
It was used for “rapid infiltration basin” flood control and was last used during Tropical Storm Faye in 2008. Now the county says it is not used for that and is “surplus” land. The asking price is $1,467,000 plus the cost of relocating the tortoises.
We are trying to find out if this land was used as a gopher tortoise relocation site for the surrounding communities. The area is land locked and has no access now, but there is a hypothetical road called “Blue Springs Rd” on Rock Springs Rd between two houses. When we moved here in 2003, we were told there would never be anything built there. The county thinks 200 houses could go in there.
If the land was used for relocating tortoises before, is it legal to re-relocate gopher tortoises? Can you please help or direct me to someone who can help?
Thank you,       Anita

Hi Anita,
There are several avenues you might want to investigate. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has jurisdiction over gopher tortoises in the state and will know if a permit was issued making that place a legal relocation site. They will also know what agreements were made as to the long-term responsibilities for keeping the tortoises there. Your regional office of the Commission can be contacted via the first link below. The second link is to the Brevard Co. natural resources office. I would contact both of these groups, ask to speak to a gopher tortoise biologist, explain the situation, and see what you get. An additional avenue is to figure out if you have any evidence proving that you were told that the site would never be developed and take that up with whomever made that agreement. If there is a group of you, that will be more powerful (even if you don’t have written proof).

http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/ne/
http://www.brevardcounty.us/naturalresources/EnvironmentalResources
Please let me know if any of these tactics is successful, and if not, let me know that, too. Good luck!
Becky

From: Jeff, Subject: gopher turtle {house foundation}, Date: May 12, 2015
Hello,
I seem to have a gopher turtle that dug a hole under my house foundation. When I look at the hole I can see the bottom of my concrete to the foundation. This worries me and I found out that it would cost me a lot of money to relocate the turtle to a new location. Since this could cause an issue with my houses integrity would the FWC take the turtle away for free?

Gopher tortoises often dig in the soft dirt around structures, including houses. The burrows are not long enough or wide enough to cause damage to your foundation, and the tortoise will not dig through the concrete block. You can contact the FWC, but it is very doubtful that they would relocate the tortoise.
I get questions like this very often. The only time I ever heard of a structure being damaged because of a burrow was someone’s above-ground pool that had gotten overfilled by torrential rains.
Becky

From: Andrew, Subject: Plants gophers eat?, Date: May 11, 2015

juvenile
Found this little guy in my back yard a few weeks ago. His burrow is just inside the gate, and I've seen him on the side yard as well so he can get out under the fence. I'm guessing it's a couple years old? The shell looks darker than baby pictures I see online, but he's way smaller than one's I used to see when camping.
I'm sure it's happy munching the grass and weeds, but are there any other plants I could plant in the area that it would like to eat?
Thanks,       Andrew McCallister

Hi Andrew,
I would guess from the picture that the tortoise is six or seven years old. Their shell typically gets hard and changes from yellow/orange to brown at around five years of age.
Attached is a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote. I hope you will find much of the information to be helpful. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. If you have more questions after you read it, feel free to write me again.
Becky

From: Dennis, Subject: Relocation {our house foundation}, Date: May 8, 2015
Hi,
We live in Canaveral Groves, a large sub-division in Brevard County, Cocoa Florida.
We love gopher turtles and enjoy the fact the the vacant 1-acre plot of land next to us is well inhabited by gopher turtles. They frequently roam our yard, eating our grass and other vegetation.
However, about a year ago a baby turtle "showed up" and seemed to build his home very close to our house and would come out of a small hole. Now, that hole has turned into a very large hole with a large mound of dirt surrounding it. This seems to grow almost daily.
Not only is the incredibly obvious even from the road, but we are concerned they may be building tunnels and living under our house, possibly damaging the foundation.
My question is two-fold:
1. What risks are there to my home and its foundation?
2. How do I have him safely removed and his home covered back up, so we can have our front yard back?
Again, we love the little fellow, who is not so little anymore, but it is becoming a big eyesore and a potential problem to our home.
Any ideas?
Thank you,       Dennis

Hi Dennis,
I am very familiar with Canaveral Groves; I live in Port St. John.
You may have started out with a baby tortoise last year, but apparently, a big one has taken its place. They don’t grow very fast. Can you email me some pictures of the burrow? Tortoise pictures would be helpful, too.
Becky

From: 7272228002, Subject: 1/3 {in surf}, Date: April 29, 2015
One of my facebook group members posted photos of a mature gopher tortoise in the surf. He said it was vomiting and rubbing its eyes but persistenty returned to the water when moved. Could this be some sort of purging behavior or parasite treatment or what?

It is common for gopher tortoises to go into the surf. No one is sure why they do it, but parasite treatment is most often mentioned as a possibility.
Becky

From: lena, Subject: Tortoise friendly ant bait, Date: May 3, 2015
I live in California in the high desert. I have three California desert tortoises and a Russian tortoise. The potted plants on my patio are inundated with ants. I want to get rid of the ants but I don't want to use anything that could harm my tortoises. I don't use any pesticides in my yard or home. In the past I have purchased praying mantis egg sacs and lady bugs. I need something that is effective. What can I do? I'm desperate but my tortoises & dogs come first. I have raised my tortoises since they hatched when I was a girl. I have permit from the state of California to have them.
Reply she could give me I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you for your time.       Lena

Hi Lena,
Try using diatomaceous earth. It kills insects not by poisoning, but by abrading the exoskeleton so they dehydrate and die. It won’t harm your animals, or you, if you were to ingest it. We use it at my house.
Becky

From: Rob, Subject: In my front yard - {in path to future swimming pool}, Date: April 26, 2015
Florida/St Lucie County - I have a gopher tortoise in my front yard. We want to put in a swimming pool and the only path to the back yard is over the burrow opening. FWC website says we can't disturb a 25' radius around the burrow opening. Other regular lawn maintenance. Any thoughts?

Can you send me some pictures of the area?
Becky

From: Ken, Subject: Land Development/Gopher Tortise, Date: April 24, 2015
The property behind my residence is an old orange grove damaged in the 1989 freeze that was then planted over with pine trees. The property has not been touched in many years. There are gopher tortoises on the land, but not sure how many. This property is slated for a housing subdivision development in the next 2 to 3 months.
I know they are supposed to locate the tortoises, test them for the respiratory disease and relocate them if they are not infected. How can we ensure that they actually do all those things? My fear is that they could bury them and not have to prove anything if no one is watching.
Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated.       Ken

What state and county is the property located in?
Becky

From: Virginia, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Injury, Date: April 24, 2015
Can a young gopher tortoise survive if its top shell is punctured? Only in one place
Thanks!

The tortoise’s shell is an outgrowth of its bones, so any injury is potentially serious. Please take the animal to a wildlife rehabilitator or vet that treats reptiles and have it examined. If you can’t figure out where to take it, write me back with your city and state and I will try to help you find a place.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Singapura2, Subject: Borough Abandonment, Date: April 24, 2015
After living for over a year in a borough under a cement slab at my lanai door, a gopher tortoise has apparently abandoned the borough. I have seen no sign of him on my property for the past week. Is this usual behavior?
Recently I planted nearby some native plants known to be favored by gopher tortoises. I am now wondering if the activity and change of scenery frightened him, or if it is usual for these tortoises to periodically move to a different location.
Thank for any comments.
Sincerely,       Bill

Hi Bill,
It is normal for gopher tortoises to dig and occupy more than one burrow within their home ranges. In the wild, our radiotagged males averaged 15 burrows and females averaged 9. It is probably different in a more developed setting because they don’t have as much free space to use, but the tortoise might have a “summer home” elsewhere. It may very well be back later on.
Becky

From: Karen, Subject: habitat {wanting to come inside}, Date: April 18, 2015
Hello,
My neighbor has a gopher tortoise that has been in his yard for over a month. At first, she (we think…haven’t flipped her over yet) did some burrowing in the yard but for the last week or so, she has been at the front door wanting to come inside. She seems angry because there is nothing to eat on the porch. Needless to say, none of us have thought it would be good to feed her there.
Today, the homeowner is moving her back to the place where she had borrowed earlier. On Tuesday, he is going back north for the summer season and won’t return until late October. We are all concerned that the tortoise will have continued problems and Jim won’t be there to watch out for her.
Behind his house is a large hay field that is fenced. Would he dare move her there? We’ve been told that sometimes, relocating them upsets them too much and they won’t eat. I maintain that since she is not eating now, it cannot do harm to put her into the field.
Please help us with your suggestions.
Thank you,       Karen

Hi Karen,
The tortoise’s behavior does not sound typical, and it makes me wonder if it has been someone’s pet before moving to your neighbor’s yard. Can you please send me some pictures of it, and especially the front legs and head?
I wouldn’t move it too far. If it is used to being around people or in captivity being fed, it will be important that you can find it later.
Becky

From: Andre, Subject: Is this a Gopher Tortoise?, Date: April 14, 2015
baby in hands
Hello, my girlfriend and I recently found a tortoise or turtle, I'm not particularly sure, and we were wondering what type of reptile it was. If it is a Gopher tortoise we must release it immediately correct, but why is it so illegal in the first place if we're just trying to care for it when it was almost hit by a car? Thank you.

It is a gopher tortoise, and, yes, you should take it back where you found it and release it in a spot where it is not in imminent danger (i.e., out of the road). Please put it under some vegetation so it cannot be seen by predators. Do this either in the morning or early evening before the sun gets really hot.
If you keep the tortoise, you will be breaking state and federal laws. However, more importantly, you will not be doing that tortoise or the gopher tortoise population any favors. It is a wild animal and needs to be free so it can take care of itself. Its diet is very complicated and changes over time. Also, if you keep it in captivity, it will never reproduce and make more tortoises, which the world needs. Gopher tortoises can live in captivity for 80 years or longer, and I doubt that you are able or willing to make that kind of long-term commitment. Once it is in captivity for a few months, it will not be releasable because it will not know how to forage or stay out of trouble.
I understand that letting it go may mean that a car will hit it or something else bad might happen. Several studies have been done that show that the vast majority (99%) of tortoise hatchlings get eaten by predators. In reality, they are a food source for lots of other animals, and that is very important.
Please do the right thing, take it back to near where you got it (it knows its home), pat it on the head and wish it luck, and let it go.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Chris, Subject: Property, Date: April 11, 2015
I am looking to buy 1.4 acres to build a house and the land has gopher tortoise burrows and we saw a small tortoise. My question is is the ground compromised for building by the tunnels? And what is cost associated with removing the tortoises
Chris

What state and county is property located in?
Becky

From: Rose, Subject: Foxes, Date: April 11, 2015
Will foxes and gopher tortoise share the same burrow

I don’t know that they would share (i.e., use at the same time), but foxes would definitely use empty gopher tortoise burrows. Have you seen this?
Becky

Date: April 6, 2015, Subject: Gopher Tortoise {around children}, From: Eric
Im pretty sure I have a gopher tortoise living in my back yard and I was wondering if I need to be worried about it because I have two children ages 6 and 4, will the turtle bother them in anyway? Will snakes come around it or what?

The tortoise will be much more wary of the kids than they will be of it. Tortoises don’t have teeth and are not at all aggressive. Please tell your children to watch the tortoise from a distance and to not harass it. This will be a fun learning opportunity for them that they will always remember.
Sometimes in the wild, snakes will use gopher tortoise burrows, but that is highly unlikely in your yard.
Has the tortoise dug a burrow? If so, email me a picture and I might be able to tell you if it is a tortoise burrow or something else.
Becky

From: +17725289284, Date: March 18, 2015, {Subject: Under foundation}
I believe I have a gopher tortoise under foundation of house how can I get him to move on? This can't be good for structure reasons

Actually, gopher tortoises dig burrows at the edge of structures quite often and I have never heard of or seen it cause a problem. They dig at about a 45 degree angle, and if they hit concrete, they will go under or around it.
If you decide that you can’t live with it, contact your state wildlife agency for guidance.
Becky

Subject: Baby Gophers, From: Bruce, Date: March 17, 2015
Hello Becky. I am curious about baby gophers after they hatch. Since they are so small and vulnerable to predators do they stay in the burrow until they reach a certain size. If so does mom gopher regurgitate to feed them. I am asking because we have a turtle in the back yard since last summer which we believe is female and large enough to breed. We want to know if there is a chance for babies yet. Thanks Becky.
Bruce

Hi Bruce,
You are right about the hatchlings being very vulnerable to predators, and the vast majority never make it to adulthood. That upsets some people, but the hatchlings are an important food source for other animals. Most reptiles (except for alligators and crocodiles) do not have any sort of parental care; they don’t guard the nest or eggs, or defend their young. When the gopher tortoises hatch, they very quickly start looking for food, and then when it’s time to hide out, they will go into an adult burrow, dig their own little burrow, or take refuge underneath vegetation that is on the ground. They will stay in a fairly small area and expand as they get older.
Just keep your eyes open for the little guys or small burrows. Maybe you will get lucky!
Becky

Date: March 17, 2015, From: Derek, {Subject: under house}
get rid of gopher turtle burrowing under my house

Gopher tortoises are federally protected and you can’t (legally) just get rid of them. If you tell me the state and county where you live, I will put you in touch with the right people that can help.
Becky

Subject: Barefoot Beach, Bonita Springs {populations?}, From: Carol, Date: March 19, 2015
Gopher Tortoise population?
Thanks,Carol

Unknown, unless you are asking about a specific area.
Becky

Date: March 8, 2015, Subject: Found egg, From: pitoniagopher tortoise egg
Hi,
I found this egg in the yard today. Could you tell me if it's a turtle egg or possibly a bird egg. It Is a hard shell. About size of ping pong ball. If turtle could it still be viable if a bird dropped it? I did candel it and could see a mass but could not tell what it was.
Thanks,       Becky

Hi Becky,
It looks like a gopher tortoise egg. Often, after the mating season is over, females will shed eggs that they did not lay during the season. It is very doubtful that it is viable, either because it was not fertile to begin with, or because it has been out in the elements.
Becky J

Date: March 5, 2015, From: Marjorie, Subject: {fighting}
We have seen gopher turtles fighting-one will flip the other onto his back then walk away--will others come and help him right side up-or can they do it themselves--I have made my husband go and turn them right side up--is this okay?

When tortoises are serious about fighting, they will try to flip each other over onto their backs. If the one that gets flipped cannot right itself, it can potentially die from heat, cold, dehydration, or predation. It is ok to turn them back over if you find one upside down; just don’t move it anywhere.
Becky

Subject: Reply to baby found in Odessa only it won't move!, From: Sharlene, Date: March 6, 2015
Before I even got your email back I attempted to let it go back home , back where I found it. It hasn't moved since then ;( so I called someone and they recommend I try and help him get better. I have been trying to feed it, he won't eat. Still won't leave the concrete slab.I'm so sad for him, but no one else recommends what to do? Right now he is safe from harms in a huge low Tupperware so he can leave at anytime with sand and a plate of water to soak in if he needed to. But still no action :( ugh please tell me there is something more I can do. The gopher tortoise man , who does everything gopher supposedly told me just to let him die if that's what's happening. But I just can't let that happen. I feel terrible. Isn't there something more I can do ;( thanks again. You can also call me if you'd like. My name is sharlene . But please I would take your advice over anyone's I've been following your website and answers for years. Thank you again

Sharlene,
Here is a link to a wildlife rehabilitation place in Odessa. I have no personal knowledge of them, but the website looks like they know what they are doing. If the baby is still alive, I would take it there. If you do that, please give them a donation, even a small one, because that is mostly how the non-profit animal rehabbers survive.

http://www.wildlifehavenrehab.org/
If you go there, write me back and let me know how your experience was so I can feel comfortable to tell others to go there (or not).
Thanks,       Becky

Subject: Baby found in Odessa fl, From: Sharlene, Date: March 4, 2015Juvenile gopher tortoise
I found a baby tipped over on side of the road in my neighborhood. I have previously seen three different adults in the area but overtime they have disappeared ;( I know they are endangered an aren't supposed to move them but I was so scare this little guy was going to get hit. I've seen dead babies on the side of the roads in my neighborhood as well. So right now is he or she is asleep in my backyard . What are the chances it will borrow here? I almost want that to happen. If it doesn't is it okay to move to a place where I know call Starkey park which has acres of land and I have seen numerous gopher tortoises there? I am just so conflicted you were not supposed to touch them but it's a baby and it's chances of survival in my neighborhood are slim to none! Please help!

That tortoise is not a baby; based on the picture, it is probably 3 or 4 years old. Please take it back where you found it and place it somewhere close-by, out of harm’s way. It will have burrows there that it can go back to and it will know where the best food resources are in the area.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Tess, Subject: Protect a burrow, Date: March 2, 2015
Becky,
What is the best way to protect a gopher turtle burrow? I manage a community and there is a burrow on a vacant lot that is sometimes mowed. Do I use stakes and caution tape or is there a better way?
Kind Regards,       Tess

Hi Tess,
It is good that the grass gets mowed; otherwise it gets too tall to be useful as food by the tortoise. As long as the burrow (or the tortoise) is not run over by a mower, everything should be fine. The markers you use depends on what machine is doing the mowing, but stakes with flagging work well most times. The stakes need to be tall enough to be seen by the operator. Avoid putting anything directly in front of the burrow that would block the entrance. Flagging tape can be tied to each stake instead of stringing it between stakes. It is also very helpful to do a walk-thru with the operator so they know exactly what to do to avoid impacts.
If you need more information, please write me back.
Becky

Date: March 1, 2015, Subject: Desert tortoise, From: Candice
Hello. Not sure if you can help, but My friend recently obtained a desert tortoise from her neighbors who moved and we were wondering about the care for them. Like mainly their diet....it was being fed romaine lettuce for at least 6 years because it refused everything else (not sure exactly what was offered). So what can they eat and what can't they eat?? Please get back to me aspa. Thank you.

Below are three links that should provide the information you need. The first two are care sheets for reputable sources that outline everything a captive desert tortoise needs to be healthy. The third link is to the Desert Tortoise Council, a group of professionals that study desert tortoises. After you read the care sheets, if you have further questions, I would contact them.
http://www.tortoise.org/general/descare.html
http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/vmth/small_animal/cape/local-assets/pdfs/Care_of_Desert_Tortoises.pdf
http://www.deserttortoise.org/
Becky

Date: February 26, 2015, From: shelly, Subject: {Who to notify?}
On the property adjacent to mine there are 4 burrow entrances, Each is occupied by an individual gopher turtle. I've even discovered a baby in the yard. My dear friends have free access through my yard and I am delighted they feel safe here. One has been here for nearly eight years. I have just learned that this empty lot has been purchased. I am so worried that since these entrances are at the back of the property, they wouldn't be seen before bulldozing, if at all. What do I do? I emailed Florida Fish & Wildlife and got no response. I don't know who bought the land or when they may clear it, but is there someone to notify so that these dear creatures are protected before destroyed?

What state and county do you live in?

From: Ellen, Subject: home for 2 Gopher Tortoise {N.Y. state}, Date: February 23, 2015
A friend in New York State needs to find a home for 2 Gopher Tortoises. Can you help?
Thank you,       Ellen

Hi Ellen,
Before I can help, I need to know how two gopher tortoises ended up in New York. Also, could your friend email me some pictures so I can be sure they are gopher tortoises and not some other species, please?
Becky

Date: February 19, 2015, From: Joy, Subject: relocation, distance from original location
Dear Becky,
I am checking into getting an offsite relocation permit for a gopher tortoise located in Gilchrist Co., FL, and am also looking for an authorized gopher tortoise recipient site. There aren't many recipient sites in this part of the state.
I thought I read somewhere that the tortoise had to be relocated within a specific mileage range from where it was captured. Is that correct? I have been searching the FWC site for that information, but can't seem to find anything about that.
I appreciate your response.
Jim

Hi Jim,
That is a regulatory decision that has to be made by FWC. I suggest you contact your regional office:
http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/nc/http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/nc/, tell them your situation and see what advice they have for you. They are eventually going to have to approve your permit application anyway, so you might as well go to the source.
Please feel free to write back if you have more questions.
Becky

From: Rick, Subject: Gopher Tortoise {in winter?}, Date: February 14, 2015
What happens to the gopher tortoise in the winter time?

Gopher tortoises are cold-blooded reptiles and cannot control their body temperature. They have to locate themselves in places and situations where the air temperature is suitable and safe. Gopher tortoises dig burrows for that purpose. They go there at night, and when the temperature is too hot or too cold for them to be out feeding.
Feel free to write back if you need more information.
Becky

From: Lee, Subject: Moving tortoises, Date: February 16, 2015
Can you please tell me the name of a person licensed to move gopher tortoises? I live in Manatee County. I would like to move them from my neighbors yard to mine before he develops.
Thanks!       Lee

Hi Lee,
Below is the link to your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Please contact them and explain the situation. If your neighbors are going to develop the property and it is occupied by tortoises, they are legally required to get a permit and finance the relocation process.

http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/sw/
Feel free to write back if you have more questions or need guidance.
Becky

From: Rick, Subject: Gopher Tortoises {in winter?}, Date: February 16, 2015
What happens to the gopher tortoises in the winter time? I used to see them all the time and now I can’t find one nowhere now. Thank you for your time.

Turtles and tortoises are reptiles and cold-blooded. They cannot control their body temperature so they have to go places where the temperature is safe for them. Gopher tortoises dig burrows in the ground and stay there are night, and during times when the temperature is too hot or too cold. In the winter, they may stay in their burrow for several weeks at time.
Becky

From: mike, Subject: possible gopher turtle borrows, Date: January 20, 2013
how can I tell if holes in propety im looking to buy are from gopher turtles or other animals and how can I tell if they are active holes . most of the holes have leaves and pine needles in the openings

If you are planning to buy and develop the property, you will eventually need a survey done by a competent individual or company. Here is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission gopher tortoise link; look on there for information. When you are searching for someone to do the survey, shop around, but make sure they have the appropriate knowledge and credentials.
http://www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/gopher-tortoise/
Becky

Date: February 6, 2015, Subject: Very old female, den collapsing, From: Deanna
Hi Becky.
I have lived in this house for 18 years and for every one of those years, I've had a massive female who's lived in her den. She's been there every morning and evening since we've been here. I know she's got another den, but it's really connected to her den that's dug under my kennel fence. It has a second entrance in my neighbor's yard.
With the dry season, her entrance keeps collapsing and this morning, a poodle dug her up as she was trying to find an escape...I'm not sure what her entrance looks like in the neighbor's yard.
She had a second den that was taken by two males (which she flips over on a monthly basis in my driveway) but she allowed one to breed this last year.
How can I attract her to another location to keep her safe from the dogs? I have over 500 dogs that come her throughout the year and it's a constant source of worry.
I've shored up her den entrance by digging out the collapsed area, using concrete sides to keep the soft sand from filling back in (I measured her shell, 14 1/4" across, told ya she's old) so I made the shoring 18" across to keep her shell from scraping the sides and to allow her the use of her den as she grows.
The first 3 feet of her den collapsed, so after placing the concrete shoring, I laid thick sheet metal across the top to add stability, then added dirt and sod to keep it cool. I also put a doghouse, backwards, so the entrance to the doghouse is against the fence, to keep dogs from putting any weight on it.
We (illegally and as a neighborhood) moved over 300 tortoises from the land we thought nobody in their right mind would ever live on, FULL of tortoise dens, that a land developer bought, paid the bounty to bury the tortoises (by giving "other" land for "other" tortoises) to safe, scrub/farm land that's also in our "neighborhood". Some (males) were marked with a dot, to make sure careful attention was paid to their travels and from what we can tell, all are safe and sound, ten years later (all dots have washed off now, but we've known them so long we can tell them apart).
But old gal is determined to keep her raggedy old den and I'm so so worried about her getting buried in a collapse that I'd really like to know what I can do to lure her to a stand of scrub that's right up next to my fence, but in more stable, harder ground. More shade means damper soil, she's in pure sandy soil and not doing a very good job at her construction methods.
Thank you so much for your time.       Deanna

Dear Deanna,
Wow! That is quite a story. You are lucky to have such a long history with the tortoise.
Unfortunately, there aren’t tried and true ways to get tortoises to do much of anything they don’t want to do. You might try planting tortoise food plants in the area where you would prefer she burrow, but there is nothing to say she will go there to eat or dig another burrow. Regarding her old burrow, even if it collapses, she should be able to dig out without any problem.
I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote about accommodating tortoises in your yard. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. It has a list of plants that tortoises like to eat.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions.
Becky

From: 2513910274, Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2015, Subject: {Tried to help}
Sorry Rebecca we wanted to help turtle! he died next day we wanted to help but he looked bad very little movements and he's eyes was sunk in. If we would have known sooner! wanted to help if we see another will call emdiatly lots of turtle around just first that looked like that, but cars run them over all the time here.

I am sorry that it died. We can only do the best we can. I appreciate your caring.
Becky

From: 2513910274, Date: January 26, 2015, {Subject: Is this a gopher?}
Is this a gopher? he doesn't look like one he is just over the size of a silver dollar soft and was in the yard we live in city and has been cold eys don't open.

It is definitely a juvenile gopher tortoise. Please take it to a local wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible. If you need help finding one, write me back with your state and city.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Brad, Subject: Question about Tortoise Relocation, Date: January 30, 2015
Hi Becky,
What type of training/licensing is required to become authorized for relocating the Gopher Turtles?
Thank you,       Brad

Brad,
Go to the link below and you should be able to find what you need.

http://www.myfwc.com/license/wildlife/gopher-tortoise-permits/authorized-agent/
Becky

From: Elizabeth, Subject: Gopher Turtle {age?}, Date: January 14, 2015 at 1:04:57 PM EST
How can you tell the age of the Gopher turtle. We have a big fellow living behind our house. He comes out when it is warm and eats the grass. He is amazing to watch.
Thanks       Elizabeth

Hi Elizabeth,
The age of young gopher tortoises can be estimated pretty reliably, but once they reach sexual maturity and become adults, it becomes much more difficult. Right after they hatch, there is typically a scar on the plastron (belly shell) from where they were attached to the egg. From that time until they are around five years old, the shell is more orange than dark and it is soft. After five years old, the shell becomes hard and begins to darken. They are smaller than an adult. Once they are 15 – 25 years old or so, they continue to grow, but slow down with age and it really gets tough to say how old they might be. So, I use the following categories: hatchling (egg scar), juvenile (smaller than adult, yellow/orange flexible shell), subadult (hard dark shell, smaller than typical adult), adult (more than 20 years old).
Sounds like your guy is an adult. Have fun watching!
Becky


From: Melodi, Subject: How to help "twins" survive, Date: January 2, 2015

A baby gopher Tortoise
Thanks for all of the wonderful information you spend the time providing. I am a librarian by trade and have no problem finding information, but to find information with such a personal touch is quite a great asset.
We have a 2.5 acre lot in Naples, FL and were fortunate to have at least one mature gopher visit our yard on a regular basis until a neighbor built on the five acres next door, clearing it to golf course state. I called FWC but it didn't seem to do much. The last time I saw a mature gopher, it was headed across my drive, not a normal route.
What we discovered a few months ago was a small hole with a little gopher peeking out. Since then we have found two other burrows and assumed, until today, that it was the one baby. It is two! I saw a head grazing in the front hole and ran in back and found the same thing happening there. Lucky us!
What I need to know is how to help them survive without interfering. How close should we mow to the holes since the eat the tiny white flowers? What can I plant and how near to help them? And I know we have lots of raccoons, armadillos, possums, etc. Is there any way I can give them an advantage? They are very tiny. Maybe three inches.
Thank you,       Melodi

Hi Melodi, and Happy New Year!
Thanks for the kind words about the tortoise page. I enjoy doing it, but have to give big kudos to the webmaster. He makes all of the “behind the scenes” things happen that are equally time-consuming, but vital.
Congrats on the new residents. I have attached a chapter from a workbook written by a friend of mine that will give you lots of good information. Use it for your own education only, please; it is copyrighted material. After you read through it, write me back if you have questions.
Thanks,       Becky


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