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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: 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
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.

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.

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.

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!

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?

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 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; 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.

From: Ann — Subject: Gopher Tortoise Head Waggling? — Date: December 25, 2017
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 makeit 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!

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.



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