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

Gopher Tortoise -- "Ask an Expert" -- 2018

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From: Craig Subject: Foraging, Date: July 14, 2018
Hi Becky,
I have acquired, via migration a tortoise, he/she has made a burrow next to my house and that is fine but I am curious when do they forage? Day or night? I have a lot of plants for butterflies and I want to protect them but I don't want to have to make walls. Are there particular plants I can grow for the tortoise and should I plant them near the burrow?? Thanks in advance, Craig, Port Saint Lucie, FL

Hi Craig,
I am happy you are happy about the tortoise. Attached is a chapter from a workbook written by a friend of mine that has lots of information you will likely find helpful. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. After you look at it, feel free to write me back if you have any questions.
Becky


From: LynnSubject: Intruder tortoise to another tortoise area, Date: July 15, 2018
Can they harm one another or will the intruder give up and leave?

Tortoises typically live in close proximity to each other and often use the same burrows, taking turns or even sharing at the same time. If either of them feels threatened by the other, there may be some aggressive behavior such as head bobbing and chasing. The worst they may do is try to flip each other onto their backs which can result in them overheating and dying. This is rare. If you have a male and a female, there may be some chasing, but they will both likely stay in the area. Just let them be and enjoy the new neighbor!
Feel free to write back if you have more questions.
Becky


From: Jaymi, Subject: Large hole under foundation, Date: July 6, 2018
Hello,
I have seen a large Gopher Tortoise who has tunneled and is now living under my foundation. I have researched that the bottom of the den can be up to 45 feet in diameter. With a large amount of rainfall and soft sand how can I be reassured there will be no damage to my foundation or home? This does not seem possible. Engineers working for the city have assured me of possible damage if the structure is not supported properly. Please advise and explain.
Poinciana, FL
Army Vet.

Hi,
I don't know where you got your information, but a gopher tortoise burrow is only as wide as the tortoise that dug it (± 10 inches). The bottom of the burrow is just wide enough for the tortoise to turn around, and there is no exit tunnel (one way in and out). The length of the burrow depends on the soil and habitat, but 10 to 12 feet is typical. They go into the ground at about a 45 degree angle, so they get deep pretty quickly.
I have heard about and seen many instances where tortoises have dug burrows next to structures; they like to dig where the dirt has been disturbed and is already soft. Not once has there been any structural damage reported to me. I really don't think you need to be concerned.
M. Rebecca Bolt


Merrie's backyard tortoise From: MERRIE, Subject: Gopher Tortoise info, Date: June 27, 2018
I have a gopher tortoise (I think) living in my back yard (Pasco County Florida) and would love to have the information about how to make my yard an even more inviting place to live. He's been here going on 2 years and is currently residing in his second burrow.
Any way to tell how old they are?
Thanks so much, Merrie

Hi Merrie,
Attached is a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote that will give you information on improving your yard for the tortoise. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.
It is hard to say anything about age other than it is an adult, probably at least 15 years old.
Thanks for being a good landlordJ, and enjoy. Feel free to write back if you have other questions or comments.
Becky


From: Mary, Subject: Gophers {Under Foundation}, Date: June 24, 2018
We have a gopher under our house and we are concerned it might damage our foundation what do we do

People often ask me about tortoises burrowing underneath structures, and I have never seen or heard about there being a problem. The burrow is only as wide as the tortoise that digs it (around 10 inches for an adult). Burrows typically go into the ground at around a 45 degree angle, so they get deep pretty quickly. If the tortoise runs into the foundation, it won't be able to dig through it. All that being said, I really don't think you need to be concerned. However, if you want to contact your specific regulatory agency and find out about relocation, send me your state and county information and I will tell you who to contact.
Becky


From: David, Subject: {Move} Gophers, Date: June 22, 2018
Is it bad to move a gopher tortoise if you think it is in danger of being killed

It is illegal to move a gopher tortoise, and it might actually be bad, depending on the situation. The best thing to do is contact whatever agency has jurisdiction in your area and report the animal to them. If you don't know who that is, send me your state and county, and I will send you contact information.
Becky


From: Niki, Subject: How deep do they bury their eggs?, Date: June 21, 2018
The gopher tortoise that lives at my farm dug her burrow smack on the fence line outside of my chicken pen. She sits in the opening of her burrow and has become used to me and the chickens. I just felt that it is a female, and I was right. Today I noticed that she had dug under some boards I placed inside the chicken fence because soil was falling into her burrow undermining the fence. In a roughly dug hole at the edge of the burrow, were three uncovered eggs and two more had rolled down the slope inside the burrow. Anything I can to do to help out here? Should I at least cover the eggs in the hole or just let nature takes its course? Thanks.

A typical nest is neatly dug, is 6 - 10 inches deep, and the eggs are well covered to protect them from predators. It sounds like your female just shed the eggs. She might be young and inexperienced, or the eggs might be infertile. It is very unlikely that they will hatch. All that being said, it won't hurt anything to cover them.
Becky


From: Ed, Subject: probably 50 active gopher tortoise {burrows}, Date: June 18, 2018
I recently moved to Mulberry Florida on a piece of property about 5 acres and there is probably 50 active gopher tortoise bowls how long do they stay in one hole or do they stay in the same hole all their life because some of these are pretty big but I absolutely love watching them

Congratulations! I am glad that you are happy about your tenants. The answers to your questions are not black-and-white; burrow creation and use depends on lots of factors such as habitat, weather, and the dynamics of the tortoises in the colony.
Check out these two websites to get more information: http://www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/gopher-tortoise/) (FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and http://www.gophertortoisecouncil.org/ (Gopher Tortoise Council). I have also attached a publication that two of my coworkers and I published in 1997 based on radiotracking data we collected on Kennedy Space Center.
Please let me know if you have any more questions. Have fun!
Becky


From: Linda, Subject: Is the Burrow Abandoned?, Date: June 13, 2018
Hello!
There was a gopher tortoise in the corner of our yard late yesterday afternoon making a burrow. The tortoise has left the burrow...it's not covered up so there are no eggs.
Should we just let it be? Will the tortoise come back?
Thanks for any input!
Linda

Hi Linda,
I would leave it alone. It may come back, finish the burrow, and move in, or it may have decided it didn't like the soil or location for some reason and won't return. In that case, the start will eventually close up and you can clean up the spot.
Thanks for checking first! Write back if you have other questions.
Becky


From: Frank, Subject: {exposed eggs}, Date: June 10, 2018
Hello Becky,
Last night, we had the most severe rain and flooding on our property than we've ever had, hurricanes included!
We live in rural Osceola county and have dozens of gopher tortoises who live happily on our acreage in unmolested bliss.
Last night's rain exposed a few eggs in the sandy mouth of a gopher tortoises burrow. Half the egg is exposed to the sun on a very hot day. Should I cover the egg with sand? Is the egg in jeopardy of decline or not hatching? Should I just leave well enough alone?
Many thanks,   Frank

Hi Frank,
It is doubtful that the egg will hatch, but it won't hurt to cover it up.
Thank you!   Becky


From: Tom, Subject: {feeding}, Date: June 7, 2018
have a simple gopher question but could be deadly for them i guess.
is it ok to feed gopher tortoises pcs of watermelon and oranges?
Tom

Hi Sir,
It's not deadly, but it is illegal. J
Becky


From: Thomas, Subject: Large Gopher Colony in High Springs, Date: June 6, 2018
Hello, My name is Tad And I am contacting you do to a large tortoise colony that may be subject to new land uses. There is an abandoned rail yard almost down town High Springs and the tortoises have moved into a good deal of it. There is rumor of Rails-to-Trails coming in however the complete fate of property remains kinda in question. I don't think this colony has been documented yet which is why I'm reaching out to you.

Hi Tad,
Please contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/nc/) and report the colony to them.
Thank you, Becky


From: Tom, Subject: Gopher Tortoise {near highway}, Date: June 3, 2018
Hi. I found a Burrow in my front yard, And there is a gopher tortoise in it. Can you tell me how long they occupy a burrow... It's very close to a very busy 5 lane highway and I'm concerned for its safety.. Should I just leave it be??

The legal thing to do is just leave it. However, if you believe that the tortoise is in danger, you could report it to the appropriate agency and let them make the decision as to what to do. If you want to report it, send me your state and county location and I will get contact information for you.
Thanks for caring!       Becky


From: Tammy, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Eggs, Date: May 25, 2018
Location of the Gopher tortoise nest Hello,
I witnessed Gertrude (the GT that lives in my backyard with Gary, her male friend) lay her eggs today! It was so exciting! Now I'm worried! We have raccoons and possums, and other critters in our yard and I'm afraid they will dig up the eggs. Any ideas on what I can put over the area to protect them?
Also, she laid them in an area where the rain water stands.. will this affect the eggs?
Thank you in advance.
Tammy, Tampa, FL

Hi Tammy,
The best thing to do is let them be. It is really important that they get the right amount of sunshine (heat) and can incubate properly. Not sure they could survive standing water for very long, but I still say the best thing is to leave them alone.
Thanks, Becky


From: Tammy, Subject: Ants and gopher turtles, Date: May 20, 2018
I have a 2-3yr old gopher turtle in my yard and the ants have made beds all around near his burrow i found him today trying to make another burrow under one of my grass plants in flower bed was wondering if the ants will run him out or hurt him or is he just trying to dig another burrow?

Gopher tortoises often have several burrows in their home range. The ants might have chased it out of its burrow, or it might just be digging a spare. If you watch, you may be able to tell if it quits using the one near the ants.
Becky


From: Eve — Subject: Baby tortoise — Date: May 10, 2018
We found a baby gopher tortoise being harassed by our dogs in the yard. What should we do with it? It is about 3" shell size.

Please look around your yard for a small burrow (or even a large burrow) to put the tortoise in. If you can't find one, put the baby under some vegetation where it can hide from predators. If there is any land adjacent to your yard, you might look there as well. If you can't find anything, write me back and we'll figure out Plan B.
Becky


From: Missy — Subject: Fence in yard — Date: April 13, 2018
Hi!
We have a gofer tortoise in our back yard. We want to fence our entire yard for our dog. What is the best thing we can do for the tortoise? We want him/her to live peacefully and enjoy his/her life.
Thanks! Michelle

HI Michelle,
You could leave a couple of places under the fence for him/her to go in and out. Even if you don't leave places, he/she will likely dig under the fence anyway.
Becky


From: +13524265815 — Subject: Baby in distress — Date: March 6, 2018
My son found a baby gopher tortoise in distress and we have been caring for him/her in till ready to set free. How long should the tortoise stay under a lamp for heat?

If you still have the tortoise, please take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. It is illegal for you to be keeping it (even temporarily) and it may need medical care that is not obvious. If you need help finding a wildlife rehabber in your area, please write me back.
Thank you, M. Rebecca Bolt


From: Sue — Subject: Gopher tortoise eggs — Date: February 5, 2018
I observed what I believe was a gopher tortoise laying her eggs yesterday. I would like to protect them from lawn mowers, etc., what can I do to protect them? Thank you, Sue, Rotonda West, FL

Hi Sue,
Take some pin flags (3 or 4) and place them around the spot so that is easily seen. Don't stick any directly into the nest.
If you know the property owner, contact them and tell them about the nest. Pictures would likely be helpful. People typically tend to be more cooperative when there's proof.
Write back if you need any more information. Becky


From: Craig — Subject: Wounded — Date: February 4, 2018
My dog brought home a baby Gopher but unfortunately he punctured the shell and a gelatinous liquid formed at the wound. I wiped it off and applied some Neosporin and have the animal set for release but I don't want it to become prey. The discharge had some traces of blood but was mostly a yellow tinted fluid. Does this poor lil' guy have a chance at life?

Please take the tortoise to a wildlife rehabilitator for treatment. Because tortoises are cold-blooded, it will take a long time for an infection to manifest, and it will also take a long time to heal without treatment (if it can heal). If you don't know where to take it, write me back with your state and county location and I will try to help you find somewhere.
Thanks, Becky


From: Tom — Subject: Tortises — Date: January 31, 2018
hello i'm not sure if you are the person i spoke to awhile back or not. i was going to send u some video of a small gopher digging it's burrow. anyway i lost your replies and contact info. but i haven't seen the little sucker in a while and no activity around the burrow since it's gotten cooler. do gophers basically hibernate when it gets cold and if they do how long can they stay that way?
thanks!! Tom

Hi Tom,
Yes, I am the person you emailed, and I remember because of the "Go Bolts" at the bottom of your note (my last name is Bolt and that tickled me).
Tortoises are cold-blooded reptiles and have no way to internally control their body temperature. They don't hibernate (in the true sense of the word), but they definitely slow their metabolism way down when it's cold and may stay in a burrow for several months in the northern parts of their range. Here in central Florida where I am located, they stay active all winter and come out whenever the temperature is more than 70 degrees.
Feel free to write back if you have more questions.
Becky


From: Patricia — Subject: Work book page please — Date: January 28, 2018
I have a gopher turtle in my back yard (Alachua County Florida) and would love to have the information about how to make my yard an inviting place which will encourage her/him to stay. I have been tempted to put lettuce, melon, etc out for him but don't want to hurt her.
Thanks, Pat

Hi Pat,
Workbook attached. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.
Thanks for not feeding the tortoise people food. It's really much better to let them graze.
Becky


From: blksandarabians — Subject: Feral cat and gopher tortoise — Date: January 10, 2018
Hi. I am beyond ecstatic that I have a baby in my yard. It is probably about 4-5 inches now, and still is colored. Lately a feral cat has been hanging around and I have caught it with It's head actually in the tortoise burrow. I am not sure if it would/could hurt the tortoise, but at the very least I think it is keeping the tortoise from venturing out as I haven't seen it since this cat came around. I am an animal lover and vet tech, and would never hurt the cat, but my tortoise!!! I have pelted the cat with pine cones, but it keeps coming back. It is also terrorizing the birds at my feeders. Any ideas? Would animal control trap it for these issues? I don't want it to be euthanized either. I am stuck! Thanks, Ginny

Hi Ginny,
The response from animal control will depend on where you are located; some counties will come trap the cat, some will loan you a trap, and some will say you are on your own. The cat will not likely give up until it gets the tortoise, so I would definitely try to get it captured one way or another. Call your local animal control and ask them about their policies regarding trapping and euthanizing. If that isn't satisfactory, you might try the SPCA or other local "cat/animal rights" group.
Don't give up!
Becky


From: Chris — Subject: Gopher tortoise getting whiter — Date: January 10, 2018
I have a gopher tortoise that. Is it's my yard Over the past several months I notice his shell is getting whiter and whiter. Is there something wrong with it.

Can you email me some pictures, please?
Becky


From: Michael — Subject: We have a building site in North Port Florida and have been posted with a protected site sign stating Gopher Tortoise present do not disturb. — Date: December 27, 2017 What rights do we have as owners of the land and will we've able to build on our site?
Michael & Patricia

Michael and Patricia,
It is difficult for me to give you any definitive answers, but I can tell you where to get more information. Much will depend on your specific situation. First, go to http://www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/gopher-tortoise/. That page has links to rules and regulations regarding tortoises, and links to permitting. You can also contact your local regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission through http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/sw/; someone there should be able to answer questions regarding your piece of property.
Lots of people have tortoises living on their land and everything is fine, so don't think that you can't build or use the property. Just find out the rules that apply to you and go from there.
Feel free to write me back after you look at the websites if you have questions.
Becky


From: Ann — Subject: Gopher Tortoise Head Waggling? — Date: December 25, 2017
Hello,
Can you please tell me why a gopher tortoise shakes it's head around a lot when close to another tortoise? I don't think it is mating season yet - so is this a sign of challenge or maybe something else?
I have a video, but it is a bit large to email. Maybe I can make it smaller. but likely you have seen this behavior before?
Thanks, Ann

Hi Ann,
Yes, I am very familiar with the head bobbing behavior. It is the tortoises' way of being aggressive. I've seen males and females do it toward members of their own sex or opposite, and even had males do it at my burrow camera when it I put it down their burrow.
Makes me laugh. J
Feel free to write back if you have other questions.
Happy New Year!
Becky


From: Jennifer — Subject: Burrow on top of septic field — Date: September 22, 2017
We've recently bought a house in Southwest Florida, Lee County and are enjoying the tortoise population in and around our property. One of the smaller tortoises has its burrow in the middle of the front yard that is also the area of the septic field. Not knowing much about either gopher tortoises or septic fields I worry if this is a good place for a burrow. Are they known to cause damage to septics?
I love being able to sit in the window and watch but don't want expensive septic repairs.

I am very glad to hear that you are enjoying your new neighbors. The tortoise won't be able to dig into your septic tank, and a small tortoise burrow probably isn't deep enough to get anywhere near it. My only concern is that if/when you have to get the tank pumped or opened for any reason, the tortoise is not accidentally dug up by the company that does the work. However, if you just bought the house, the tank should have been emptied before you moved in and it will be a long while before it needs to be done again.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions.
Becky


 

 


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