Gopher Tortoise -- "Ask the Expert" -- 2009

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From: "Jeff B, Date: December 26, 2009, Subject: gopher turtle [not coming out]

My mother has a gopher turtle that lives under her lanai. She has not seen it come out for a few weeks now. However, she had seen a raccoon in the area about two weeks ago. Is it possible for the raccoon to have hurt it or is it also possible that it may have hatchlings in the burrow and that is the reason it is not coming out.
Thanks.      Kathy

Hi Kathy,
I don’t know where you are located, but it is quite common for gopher tortoises to become less active and stay in their burrows for long periods of time during the cold times of the year. They are cold-blooded reptiles and cannot regulate their body temperature. It is not likely that a raccoon has bothered the tortoise. Also, gopher tortoise parents do not take care of their young, so if there is one or more hatchlings in the burrow, the adult would still come in and out. It is probably the weather that has caused the tortoise to stay in and it will be out when things warm up.
Feel free to write back.      Becky

From: Mjlqhd96, Date: December 24, 2009, Subject: [feeding]

Several months ago a gopher turtle crawled into my back yard and dug a nest by some pimentos. My wife and I have been putting out lettuce, carrots, apple and potatoes out at the entrance for him. He goes into the yard to eat also. Is there anything special we can do to help him out or feed him. I feed him very early on the mornings, 3 hrs before he comes out.

In reality, it is not legal for you to feed the tortoise. One of the main reasons is that the tortoise diet is pretty complicated, and if it is eating the “treats” you are putting out, it may not be getting the proper nutrients it needs to be healthy. However, there are things you can do to make your yard more appealing and provide things that the tortoise needs. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote. Please use it for your own education only because it is copyrighted material.
Good luck and have fun. Feel free to write back.      Becky

From: Michael, Date: December 20, 2009, Subject: Help [re-locate]

Tonight our dog dug up a gopher tortoise. What should we do? The tortoise appears to be fine. We are heading out of town tomorrow. Should we drop him in some woods or take him to a shelter? We live in central Florida.

Please do not drop the tortoise off in the woods. The temperatures in central Florida are going to be way too cold for a tortoise to be outside a burrow for the night. If there are other burrows in the near vicinity that you could put him in, do that. Otherwise, I suggest you take him to a wildlife rehabilitator. If you need any additional information, please write me back.      Becky

From: rebecca, Date: December 7, 2009, Subject: Hello :) [nutrition]
I love your page, it is one of my favorites. Here's a picture of our beloved Itsy for you to enjoy. I also saw some posting about Turtles/torts eating others shells for nutrition. We use bird cuttle bones to avoid this. Just a thought. Keep up the great work. Thank you for your pages.

Thanks for the kind words and cute picture!

From: BestestMommyEver, Date: November 24, 2009, Subject: Found a baby gopher turtle
Hello, I live in Port St Lucie Florida we have a lot of gophers. Well I am a save the animals person and found this baby gopher in the road!!! It is as big as the one in your picture on left.I have it in a box with grass and water. Do not know what to do with it. Mom was no where around and did not see a hole anywhere. What should I do?
Hope you can help!!      Bonnie

Dear Bonnie,
Please take the tortoise back to where you found it and release it in the nearest place with vegetation. It does not surprise me that you did not see an adult tortoise as they do not take care of their young. Also, small tortoises often do not dig burrows, but will sit in depressions underneath palmetto fronds or other plants/leaves/etc. It is important to let the baby go as soon as you can because it needs to get the proper nutrition, temperature, and all of the other things that it should have that we don’t understand. Try to let it go during the warm part of the day and hide it underneath some vegetation so it is not obvious to predators.
Feel free to write me back if you have questions.

From: FLIPTHECL, Date: November 19, 2009, Subject: Enchanted Forest:[Water]

I have always allowed gopher turtles to live in my yard but I have wondered how do they get water? They have lived here since 2001 and one it 13 inches long. I have heard to never feed them and I haven't but there is no place I can see where they get water. One year I put up a pool for me to lay in during the heat of the summer and the big turtles fell in it. My grandson and I saved her by almost doing mouth to mouth. I think she fell in by accident and not looking for water. Thank you, Flip

Hi Flip,
Tortoises will drink water out of a pool or depression, but it’s not really necessary. They can get all of the water they need from their food.
Mouth-to-mouth on a tortoise?? That is a first for me!! Thanks for caring so much, and it sounds like you are teaching your grandson good ways of looking at the world.
Feel free to write back if you have any other questions.

From: Donna, Date: November 17, 2009, Subject: Caved in burrow

Recently our power company sent crews with large machines out to cut everything in the power line path. We noticed that ran over and collapsed the opening of an active burrow. If the gopher was in the hole at the time will it dig itself out?

There have been studies done that show gopher tortoises can and will dig themselves out of collapsed burrows. However, if there were any other animals inside the burrow, they may not be able to dig out. If you can take a shovel and just dig out the entrance a little so that some light can get into the tunnel, that would be helpful.
Thanks, Becky

From: chloe, Date: November 10, 2009, Subject: gopher trutles
How are you? I would like to know what a gopher turtle eats? So if you would please e-mail me back. :-)

Gopher tortoises eat low-growing grasses and herbs. If you want more specific information, write me back.

From: Daniel, Date: November 2, 2009, Subject: Spur Thigh or gopher tortoise
A neighbor found this little guy in his yard on south Merritt Island and gave it to us as the biggest pet folks on the block. I don’t know tortoises though. My initial research made me think it’s a spur thigh, but I’m afraid it might be a gopher tortoise and need to be set free.
Please advise. Dan

It looks like a hatchling gopher tortoise to me. Please try to find out where it came from and let it go.
Thanks, Becky

From: Julie, Date: October 23, 2009, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Burrow In Our Driveway
We have several gopher tortoises on our property on Don Pedro Island, and we really enjoy observing them. A new tortoise arrived and has dug a burrow in the middle of our sand driveway. How do we go about helping him relocate his burrow to a more safe location? Any help would be very much appreciated. Thank You!

I would hope that he will relocate himself when he figures out how much disturbance there is in the middle of a driveway. If not, please contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ( Ask to speak to the tortoise biologist and explain your situation.
Please write me back if you need more information or your situation does not get resolved.

From: dan, Date: October 19, 2009, Subject: Gopher Tortoise took up home in my yard. Need Help soon.
I hope you can help me and the turtle. Within the past week a 10" round turtle has dug himself/herself a den in my yard. The problem is where he has dug his den. He started at the base of our house (Slab) and has gone done about 2' down and turned under the house (about 6' so far) and is still going strong. We are worried the he made damage/compromise the foundation and crack the foundation and/or get hurt itself by parts of the foundation coming down on him/her or collapsing in on him/her under the house.
WANT should we do? I know they are pretected and endangered and cute. Mostly not a problem to us. But this one is scaring me, because as I said he/she is now under our house.
Please advise as soon as possible, I don't want the turtle hurt or my home damaged. And no money for animal control to come out and help.
Thank you very much.      Monica

Hi Monica,
This is actually a common problem and I get this question quite often. I have never heard of any problem with house foundations being damaged by a tortoise burrow. The burrow is only as wide as the tortoise, with a small chamber at the end so it can turn around. When the tortoise reaches the hard foundation, it will not try to burrow into it. The burrow will either end there, or will turn away from it. I really believe it is not a problem.
Feel free to write me back if you have more questions or concerns.      Becky

From: karen, Date: October 16, 2009, Subject: gopher tortoise habitat
In our development we have one parcel left that we were told was a tortoise habitat and it couldn’t be built on. It’s a been bout nine years and the parcel is very overgrown and who knows what else is on it. How do we go about finding out if there is still a tortoise on it or if it is still listed as a tortoise safe habitat? I have searched all of Lee County, FL websites and can’t seem to find anything. What do you suggest?

Hi Karen,
Unfortunately, this is a fairly common scenario. The developer was required by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to set aside habitat, which happened, but there was no requirement for management or monitoring. The developer moves on, and the residents or homeowners’ association have no idea what to do, or even know that anything needs to be done.
I would contact the FWC for your region and see if they have any records on your site. You might also find out what they suggest you do. Your regional office contact information can be found at:
Feel free to write me back if you need anything else.

From: Kathleen, Date: October 9, 2009, Subject: what did I see?
After heavy rains in the Texas hill country,I found a tortoise, with a large tail with triangular dinosaur shapes on it. It was large with a powerful neck. What did I see?

Sounds like a snapping turtle to me. There are two species in Texas, the common snapper and the loggerhead snapper. The two web pages below show the differences, but the biggest deciding factor will be the locality, so look at the range maps
Let me know if that is what you saw.      Becky

From: Jeanne, Date: October 3, 2009, Subject: What are they doing? Mating Dance? Confronting?
I live in Windover Farms in Titusville. We have been here for 11 years and there has always been at least one burrow on our property. Until today, we have only seen one Gopher Tortoise at a time, though we guessed it was not always the same one. Today there are two, and they appear to be confronting each other at the entrance to the burrow. One is bobbing his/her head. I can't see the other one as well, but it appears to just be looking at the first one. What are they doing?
Thanks,      J. Burkhart

I am going to guess that it was two males having a little tiff over who owns the burrow. It is not mating season now. Males will drive females nuts during mating season, but it is mostly chasing and trying to mount them. Males typically bob their heads at each other. If things get really serious, they will try to flip each other over.
Write back if you need more information.

From: lspires, Date: September 30, 2009, Subject: Enchanted Forest: [Entombing tortoises]
Dear Sir,
We are community north of Daytona, and we have a strip of land, the only natural forest on the penninsula of Ormond Beach that has ancient trees and gophers and exotic plants. A developer is asking Volusia County to allow him to strip the land and he claims there are only 9 gophers on the five acre strip. I am very concerned that he can pay the State of Florida to allow him to bury the turtles, I would greatly appreciate any law or code that will stop him from killing the turtles, the meeting with the commisioners is this Thursday at 2 pm.. they haven't given us much time in this matter, again any help will be greatly appreciated.

Hi Linda,
Entombing tortoises is no longer legal in the State of Florida. Look at the following website for information about what a developer may and may not do. The more facts you know before the meeting, the better you will do.
Write back if I can help anymore and GOOD LUCK!!

From: John, Date: September 30, 2009, Subject: Resident gopher tortoise
Good morning,
I am the facility maintenance tech at a Volusia County elementary school and we have a tortoise burrow that is in very close proximity to buildings and being pestered by the children and parents as well. I’ve spoken with our safety officer about it and I was informed that this is apparently a female that just laid eggs. Besides the concern about them being protected by law, I know rattle snakes like to share their burrows at times which are obviously a safety concern for the children. The school administration had spoken to a local organization and was informed by them that the property owner is responsible for doing something to protect the tortoise. My problem is that I may have to have some kind of permit from the school board to do anything as far as a permanent solution to the problem. Could you please give me some ideas?
Thank you for your help,      John

Hi John,
Look at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission gopher tortoise page (( Under the “permits” section, it will tell you what to do to get the tortoise relocated.
Please write me back if you need more information.

From: Francis, Date: September 29, 2009, Subject: Gopher Tortise in Sanibel IslandAfrican spur-thighed tortoise
Went to Sanibel Island Florida with my family. We ran into this HUGE Gopher Tortise and wanted to share these pictures. We left him where he was and never even touched him, he was pointed in the right direction (heading into the woods! not towards the road).
We are Turtle lovers and have had many over the years. We have a few Eastern Box Turtles who live in our yard most of the summer and come and go as they please. We have had many Painted, Red Ear Sliders, Cooters, and snapping turtles and many others over the years.
This was our first experience with a wild Tortise and was a real priviledge to share a few minutes with it and we wanted to share our experience with others as well.
Thank you,      Francis and family.

Dear Francis and family,
I hate to burst your bubble, but that is not a gopher tortoise. It looks like a young African spur-thighed, an exotic species to the U.S. They are often sold in pet stores as cute, tiny juveniles, and then quickly grow into the second largest tortoise species in the world. People freak out when they realize what they have gotten into and they release the tortoise into the wild, or the tortoise escapes on its own because they are prolific diggers.
I have two questions. Do you remember approximately where you saw the tortoise? If so, I would like to let someone at Sanibel know so they can go get it. Spur-thighs do not do well in the winter here. Also, the picture of your kids sitting by the tortoise is really cute and I could use that when I do educational talks. I would be happy to put the photographer’s name on it and keep it, if you wouldn’t mind.
Write me back,      Becky

From: william, Date: September 26, 2009, Subject: gopher turtle eggs
becky it has been 122 days since the gopher turtle laid eggs out back, does this mean the eggs aren't good, we did uncover the nest yesterday and the eggs look good, we covered them back and did not disturb them. is there still a change they will hatch or do i stop worrying about them. thanks gaye.

Hi Gaye,
If they don’t hatch within the next couple of weeks, I would think they are never going to hatch. The longest is supposed to be 110 days, but you never know, and I wouldn’t mess with them yet.      Becky

From: C Schurdell, Date: September 22, 2009, Subject: turtle [eye infection]
I hope I am emailing a lady named Becky. I got this email address off of a website. I just needed to ask a question about a baby turtle we found in our yard. He seems to have an eye infection in one of his eyes. Do I make an attempt to have him treated? or do I just leave it alone. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. We have several turtles that live on our back property and I just like to keep an eye on them to make sure they are doing ok. I want this little guy to make it.
Thanks,     Cherise

Hi Cherise,
Eye problems are very common in hatchling gopher tortoises. You could take the hatchling to a wildlife rehabilitator or vet and get it treated, or you could leave it alone and let nature take its course. The vast majority of young turtles do not survive the first year, but if you would like to increase that one’s chances, you can.
Write back if you need more information. I apologize for not getting back to you sooner, but I was on vacation last week.

From: cindy, date: september 14, 2009, subject: unique breed of gopher turtle?
      I live in the country, and in the middle of our two lane highway, i saw this gopher almost get hit twice - and i'm a big all- round animal lover! (i have more respect for animals, then i do most people.) this gopher is about 12" - 14" long; ( i know it can't be a baby.) it  has (13) yellow  spots on  most of it's squares on the shell, and  it's shell almost has a figure 8 look to it, and on it's legs (outer edges) has reddish-orange, and it's head has yellow & orange.
    I know it's a gopher turtle, # 1 - i just know # 2 - 200 yards down the road i picked up another one, out of the road, and every thing is the same, except the shape of the of the shell & the color.
   I haven't been able to find a pic's of this on the computer, yet! Have you heard of such a thing??????
                     Thanks, cindy         in alva fla.

Hi Cindy,
From your description, it is not a gopher tortoise. I have attached a website link to some pictures of different water turtles that occur in Florida. Look and see if your turtles aren’t in that group. Write me back and let me know what you think.

From: Infoear, Date: September 10, 2009, Subject: gopher tortoise lives in my back yard
I saw a gopher tortoise in my yard eating some wild yellow flower plant that grows low to the ground, but there isn't much of the plants in the yard. should I feed it other things or just leave it be. he eats some real fast and then runs back in his hole. he comes out to eat every two days.He is about 6 " long the size of a box turtle, that I use to have when I lived in brooklyn n.y in 1960. he was fun to have , I found him in the yard too he lived for 15 years I took care of him.
Thanks Jim

Hi Jim,
It is illegal to feed the tortoise anything because they are a protected species. However, I have attached a chapter from a training manual that talks about what you can do in your yard to make it more suitable for tortoises. Please use this information for your own education only because it is copyrighted.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Paul, Date: September 9, 2009, Subject: Gopher Tortoise [Visitor enjoyed]Enjoyed seeing this gopher tortoise.
My name is Paul, I live in Ohio but I recently visited my mother in Wildwood, FL. It was really fasinating to see this Tortoise in her yard when I woke up in the am. Turns out after I did some research it's a Gopher Tortoise. I found your site and read all the useful info there. The gopher has two burrows in my mothers yard and two more that I was able to observe one next door at my aunts and one about 100yds down the road at my cousins house. I have attached a couple pictures. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with others.       Paul

Hi Paul,
Thank you very much for the kind words. Our webmaster is really the one primarily responsible for the nice site, so he deserves the kudos.
Glad you enjoyed your trip here and saw some of the “real Florida”. We need more visitors like you!       Becky

From: "Marvin, Date: September 4, 2009, Subject: Den Protection
There are at least 4 gopher tortoises on a strip of land behind my house at any one time that is owned and maintained by the Saint John’s Water Management Authority. I have put steel fence posts around two the den’s and so far they have mowed around them. When they mow around the other two they drive over the mouth of the dens and collapse them.
My question is do you know where I can get tortoise flags or some other marker to identify the dens to help prevent this from recurring?
Thanks!       Marvin

Hi Marvin,
There have been studies done to determine the impacts of mowing over burrows. They do often collapse, but the tortoises are able to dig out. That is the good news. Unfortunately, there are lots of other animals that use tortoise burrows that may not be able to dig out.
My suggestion is that you call the St. Johns and explain your concerns. They should be willing to mark the burrows themselves and instruct their mower people to go around. It is important that they continue to mow the area because the tortoises need the grass to be short for eating.
If that doesn’t work, I would call your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and talk to the tortoise biologist. The Wildlife Commission has jurisdiction over tortoises in Florida. Be sure and mention your concern for the other animals that can’t dig out of a collapsed burrow. You might also ask them about “official” tortoise flags that could be used to mark the burrows.
Good luck and write me back if you run into problems.       Becky

From: rebelnluv, Date: September 1, 2009, Subject: tortoise [we were given]
Ok my sister's son was given a baby turtle a while back. They have had the turtle for about 2 years now. We come to find out that it is a gopher tortoise. We never knew that it was and now were worried about getting in trouble for having it. Recently its shell has gotten really scary soft and not really wanting food. I know we take it someone where but she is worried about getting in trouble. We have a wildlife refuge down the road from us though. She has been around people so long I know she could not be released so we dont want to let her go. Please help!!!! We dont want the turtle to die because were too scared to take her somewhere.

Find a local wildlife rehabilitator immediately and take the tortoise there. You won’t get into trouble. Explain the situation so that they will realize that the animal should not be released into the wild. If you can’t find someone in your area, write me back with your city and state, and I will try to find somewhere for you to take it.
Thanks for doing the right thing. Lots of people would have just dumped it out and it would certainly have died. Becky

From: ijoanie07, Date: August 31, 2009, Subject: Turtle needs a safe home
Hello and thank you for answering my question. This afternoon I saw a healthy sized turtle heading for a major highway beyond my neighborhood . I gently walked up and spoke softly. The turtle stopped and didn't seem to be alarmed. I put it in the park across the street but it kept walking back and forth stopping at the curb. I went and got a box, and took it into my fenced yard and gave it some water. I would like to place him in a safe location but in our area of Plant City developments are creeping up everywhere. My yard has oak trees, and gardens and all sorts of birds, toads , lizards, well you get the picture. Where do I take this turtle to a safe place? what does he need until I can get him to this safe haven? I identified him from the photos on the web site as a gopher turtle. Thank you for your time, Joan

Becky, sorry for wasting your time, I found my answer on your web site. I was in such a hurry due to our darkening clouds that I wanted a fast solution. I will open my gate,and ask my Guardian Angel to direct him to a safe place, but I will watch so he doesn't head for that 4 lane, fast moving intersection. Thanks for caring about life, in all its forms, joan

Hi Joan,
I was just getting ready to write you back and tell you to let him go on his own. That is tough sometimes, but it is the right thing to do. I have asked the tortoise angels for help on many occasions. Pat him on his little head and send him on.
Thank you, too, for caring.       Becky

From: "suan," Date: August 25, 2009, Subject: hello [found tortoise - what to do?]

1) i found a baby gopher and would like some advice on raising it .. i will set it free when it grows a little .. are they swimmers .. how much waBaby gopher tortoise 8/09ter should i put in his tank tks
2) im not sure what kind of turtle it is .. maybe you could give me some advice as what to do with it tks
3) i realize now it is not a gopher turtle .. i believe it s a snapper. but maybe the picture i sent you will verify it.. tks. i was mowing the lawn and almost ran the poor little thing over. could he survive if i just let him go in the woods behind my house. or should i let him grow a little. tks

Hi, It is definitely a hatchling gopher tortoise. Because gopher tortoises are legally protected, you need to release it. The woods behind your house will be fine. Let it go as soon as the weather is sunny, preferably during the late morning or early afternoon. Don’t release it at night or during the hottest part of the day. If you see gopher tortoise burrows in the area, let it go into one of those. If not, put it under some vegetation so that it is hidden from predators. Don’t put it in the direct sunlight.
Pat him on his little head and wish him the best. That is all you can do, and hopefully, he will be fine and go about his tortoise business. Feel free to write back if you need more information.       Becky

box turtle
From: "celtic girl," Date: August 22, 2009, Subject: Fw: question [What kind?]
I'm just not sure what kind of turtle is living in my backyard. Is it a gopher or mud turtle? Is there anything I can provide to make his/her life happier? The turtle has adopted us and I don't mind watching out for "Tiddles". The bottom plate is flat, so a female?
Thanks, Margaret

Hi Margaret,
It is a box turtle. If he has adopted you, whatever he wants/needs must be available in your yard. I have attached a couple of care sheets for people that are keeping a box turtle as a pet, but there is information about what kinds of food they like, as well as what should be avoided. I suggest that you leave him on his own, but if you wanted to give him treats, etc., that would be fine.
This one has a list of plants that can be grown in your yard.
If you have questions or need more information, write me back. Have fun with your new neighbor!

From: Isaac and Jennifer, Date: August 19, 2009, Subject: [Tortoise in Arkansas]
I rescued a Gopher Tortoise today in Arkansas, someone brought it from Florida and just let it go, I have spent two weeks looking for the tortoise and I need you to advise me on the best way to help the little guy, Thanks

Thank you for taking time to rescue that animal; it probably would not have made it through the next few months, either due to weather or being hit by a car, etc. Please write me back if I can help any more, and to let me know what you find out from the state wildlife agency.       Becky

I know that once a tortoise has been transported out of state, it cannot be legally brought back into Florida. My suggestion would be that you contact your state wildlife agency and ask them what to do (contact information below). If you want to keep the tortoise yourself, maybe they would issue you a permit; I would be hesitant to keep it without one because of the potential legal problems. If you don’t want to keep it, you could take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. The tortoise will need extra care in the winters as Arkansas is too far north for it to survive on its own.       Becky

From: Mckenzie, Date: August 18, 2009, Subject: tortoise VS vegetable garden
I have just had a tortoise move into an abandoned hole under my house. My problem is that my vegetable garden is right there and it is eatting my vegetables - specifically the sweet potato leaves. It will be planting season soon and I would prefer to not share with her. From some of the reading I have done I am understanding that she may move along if she is laying eggs, is that right? Why would she work so hard on this den if she's not planning to stay? I'm trying to decide if I need to fence the garden although that may be futile since she appears to be an excellent digger. My problem is how do I save my vegetables from being devoured by this intruder?       Carol

Hi Carol,
It is past egg laying season, so my guess is it may have come to stay, especially if there is a nice food supply. I suggest you fence the garden. If you use hardware cloth or chicken wire, bury it at least 18 inches under the ground and it should work fine. Once you take away the sweet potatoes, etc., the tortoise may move on. If you like having it there, you might consider leaving some plants outside the fence.       Becky

From: jason, Date: August 14, 2009, Subject: Gopher Tortoise [under my car]
Over the past week we have found a Gopher Tortoise on are property more than once. It is the same tortoise every time. I love watching him explore my yard and he has grown quite fond of my boyfriends mustang every night he goes under there and sleeps. The other night I had to let him take my car becasue the Tortoise was under his. I dont mind this but my concern is that we live right next to a very busy road and I am nervous that the Tortoise might get hit by a car. At least once a week we see dead turtles on the street and it is very sad and it makes me a bit nervous for this guy/gal. The tortoise is about 12' long and 9' about how old would you guess it is.
Thank you so much for the help.

If the tortoise is sleeping under cars and has not dug a burrow, it is probably looking for a new home. It may have gotten displaced from somewhere by development, or a person could have moved it from its home. Hopefully, it will find a place it likes, dig a burrow, and stay there. There is not much you can do to keep it out of the road if it insists on going there.
From the size, all I can say is that it is an adult.
Write back if you need more information.       Becky

From: Crsjag, Date: August 13, 2009, Subject: DOT Plans for SR40
DOT has scheduled a pond be put in at the corner of SR 40 and SW 161 Court Road in Ocala Fl.
Contractors were their today taking soil samples.
The DOT project item # is 238648-1: sub # 271010000 and 276010000
There are several gopher tortoise living in the lot DOT plans to dig up to put in a pond.
Who do I contact in order to insure thetortoise don't get buried alive?

You are in the northeast region for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Here is their website address:
When you call, ask for the tortoise biologist.
My guess is that the DOT already has a relocation permit, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.
Let me know if you need any more help.      Becky

From: Mariann, Date: August 13, 2009, Subject: Tortoise fat reserves
How can I tell if my tortoises have enough fat reserves to hibernate. The only info I have found is that you should check for plumpness around the shoulders and legs, but those are the areas that usually have saggy skin? I'm trying to decide whether I should hibernate them or not.
Thanks, Mariann

I can’t answer this question because it depends on many things. What kind of tortoise do you have, where are you located, are the tortoises inside or outside, etc. I suggest you look on-line for some care sheets specifically written for your species and see what they recommend about hibernation. If you need help finding good care sheets, write me back.      Becky

From: Jenn, Date: August 11, 2009, Subject: [Termite treatment]
I am about to have my house treated with the sub. termite treatment and I noticed a gopher burrow on the side of my house under my air conditioner. I need to find out if there is any way to legally take care of him because I do not want them to poison him.
I know it is not legal to relocate them but I was wondering if there was a way to do it to protect him from the harmful chemicals.
Thank you,   Jess

Hi Jess,
I suggest you talk to your state wildlife agency and see what they want you to do. Send me your location (state and town), I will get the contact information for you.      Becky

From: john, Date: July 29, 2009, Subject: [upside down]
when i got home from work today i noticed a gopher turtle upside down in my yard i turned him over and noticed that the lower front edge of its shell is chewed,but just the extreme outer edge, there is no blood,. i have brought it into the house to make sure it is okay and to protect it from my dogs. i do have a fenced in yard so i don'tt know how it got in. will it be okay to release the turtle in the wooded area outside of my fence away from the road and other hazards, or should i take it to a local retile farm in my area. the turtle seems to be okay

I would let him go. If there is a natural area on the other side of the fence, that is probably where it came from. Check around the bottom of your fence and block any holes.
Write me back if you have any questions.      Becky

From: Gina, Date: July 24, 2009, Subject: gopher tortoise [ocean]
Why does gopher tortoise walk into the ocean, float, not drown and then walk out back into the hammocks?
Gina Mauzey

Hi Gina,
No one really knows why tortoises (and some other animals such as alligators and manatees) go for a swim in the ocean. One idea is that it gets rid of skin problems and parasites.
Tortoises are not great swimmers, but they can float around for short periods of time without a problem.

From: Debora, Date: July 21, 2009, Subject: gopher's eating schedule

We are fortunate to have two gophers taking up residence in our back yard. I have only seen them out once feeding on some wild grasses. When do they roam about to eat? I would love to be able to sit on our deck and watch them. We have a large dog, but he ignores them, but I think they are afraid of him.

Hi Debora,
The time that gophers are out feeding depends on the temperature. Because they are cold-blooded, they need heat to be able to digest their food. During the winter, they will not feed as much, and in the northern part of their range, they may go for several weeks without emerging from the burrow. Your best chance to see them feeding is during the warmer hours, but not the heat of the day in the summer.
If your dog doesn’t bother them, they will probably get used to him after a while.
Have fun!      Becky

Date: July 20, 2009, From: mellbrian, Subject: Dead Tortoise question
My name is Brian and I live in south Georgia. We have around 120 acres most of which is "sand ridge" and it houses several (6) tortoises that we can identify and call our place home. We have spent many hours in the last 15 years watching these reptiles go about their daily lives. Saturday while checking up on our friends one of my girls noticed an empty shell at the entrance to their hole. When I removed the shell from the hole eight golf ball sized eggs rolled out onto the ground. It was disturbing to see that the old gal had died however it was more disturbing to know that she was not able to lay out. I noticed nothing on the outside of the shell that would indicate any trauma (to the shell anyway). Have you heard of this and did she just die of old age or what?

Date: July 20, 2009 4:14:28 PM EDT
Yes she had recently died. Several of what appeared to be vertabrae fell out along with the eggs. The eggs were surprisingly intact with the exception of one that busted when it fell out. It had a thick yoke accompanied with a putrid smell.
Sent from my BlackBerry Smartphone provided by Alltel

Once a tortoise is an adult, there are not too many natural things that can kill it. She might have had a disease, or she might have been very old and couldn’t handle the stress of reproducing. If she didn’t look like she had been hit by a car or mower, or had any other signs of trauma, those options would be my guess.
Thanks for sharing this observation. It is sad, but very interesting.       Becky

From: York, Date: July 20, 2009, Subject: Black Tortoise

A couple months ago we were doing some major work in our back yard, lots of digging and large heavy trenchers moving all over the place. I was moving some iris plants that were pulled up a few days before and out of no where I discovered a 6 to 7 inch black tortoise. I put some celery leaves out for it, though it did not seem to care for them. About 5 minutes later I went back to check on it and it was gone. It seemed that there were no places for it to hide, but I was unable to find it. In order for it to have gotten out through the gate it would have had to travel over 200 feet - is that possible?
Do they live underground? What kind of tortoise might it have been? Any way I might be able to find it again?

Let me preface this reply by saying I am guessing!!
I doubt that the animal you saw was a tortoise because at 6 or 7 inches, they would be more orange or light brown. It might have been a mud turtle. They are small and dark as adults. If you tell me what city and state you live in, it would help narrow down the possibilities of what it could be.
It is very possible that it crawled away in a few minutes, or found someplace to hide, even if it just covered itself with dirt. Turtles are very tough and resourceful. You may very well see it again sometime. If you do, send me a picture.       Becky

From: Buhay, Date: July 5, 2009, Subject: What to do without harming Gopher tortoise

Hi,       We just moved to our new home and have found a Gopher Tortoise burrow in the backyard. We need to place a storage building right about where the hole is. How can we do this without harming the Tortoise? Do they come out during the day and sleep in at night? I know he has another burrow somewhere nearby... How can we do this without harming this little guy? (or gal)       Thank you!

If you are in Florida, you are legally required to stay at least 25 feet away from the burrow. You’ll will need to contact your local wildlife officials to find out what their rules are if you live in another state.
Feel free to write me back if you have other questions.       Becky

From: Charles, Date: July 6, 2009, Subject: gopher t. question [fill burrow?]

How do you know that a g.t. has vacated a burrow? We put fresh sand in front of it and haven't seen any sign that there is anything going in or out. It's been more then two weeks. It is on a side of a water retention area, and we'd like to fill it in before it caves in.
Please respond asap. Much appreciated.       Gerri

It is illegal to fill in a burrow. If the tortoise has deserted it, the burrow will fill in itself.       Becky

From: Kendra, Date: July 14, 2009, Subject: Washington Gopher Tortoise

A few years ago, a friend, who lives in WA, gave us his pet gopher tortoise. We've had the tortoise, Scooter, for many years here in the desert area of Washington. He's lived in his burrow for years in our backyard. During winters he basically hibernates in our heated garage. He eats grass, weeds, and dandelions in our yard and we also give him romaine, spinach, and occasionally strawberries. Is there anything we can do to make him feel more at home? What kinds of plants could we plant for him to eat? Thanks!!

Do you know where the tortoise originally came from (i.e., geographic location)? It might be a desert tortoise, which is native to the western U.S., but not as far north as Washington. Gopher tortoises are native to the southeastern U.S. Regardless, if you have had the animal for a long time and he seems to be doing o.k., I wouldn’t try to fix what isn’t broken. He has a burrow, eats wild grasses and weeds, has a safe place to go in the winter – that all sounds fine. If we can figure out if it is a desert or a gopher tortoise, I may be able to suggest some plants for your yard.       Becky

From: PAMELA, Date: July 3, 2009, Subject: we have happy turtles :)

Hi, we live in Sorrento our yard backs up to a huge field that was a seasonal pond but has been dry for many years. It is home to many Gopher turtles adults and babys. We enjoy watching them from a distance, it amazes me that the young turtles dig their own burrows!
I worry about them when it rains so much here and the small burrows get washed out but soon we see new small burrows and know they are fine and have relocated. Our biggest challange is watching out for them when I mow the lawn and keeping the new neighbors informed so they dont bother them and keeping dogs, motorcycles and 4 wheelers away. We have a garden the turtles like nibbling on the lettuce but we dont mind sharing. If you have any suggestions of anything else we should be doing or not doing please let me know. Thanks

That is so cool!! You are great and the world could use more folks like you.
I have attached a chapter from a workbook that was written by a friend of mine. It may provide some more information that you can use. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please.
Keep up the good work!       Becky

From: John, Date: June 30, 2009, Subject: Need help with gopher turtle

I came acrossed your site after finding a gopher turtle in our driveway under our car. We where getting ready to go to the local store and I noticed it up against the rear tire. I moved him about 15 feet away in our yard. The turtle has not moved an inch which was two hours ago. Earlier today while at a neighbors house a lady we were talking two noticed a young kid about 15-17 years of age with a bucket in his hand walking acrossed the road, the friend (neighbor) said "oh he must have another turtle" Now I am wondering if this kid had the turtle for sometime and released it. Any event I am concerned the turtle is sick and or dying. I would like some advice on who to call or what to do.
Best,       John

Hi John,
If the tortoise has not moved by now, please find a wildlife rehabilitator in your area and take it there. If you don’t know where one is located, call Animal Control or local vets and ask them. If none of that works, write me back and tell me what state and town you live in, and I will try to find someone.
If you can tell the kid that is messing with turtles that gopher tortoises are legally protected and that he should leave them alone, I would certainly appreciate it.
Thanks,       Becky

From: WENZELKarlee, Date: June 29, 2009, Subject: laying eggs

what month do gopher tortoises lay eggs ,and how long before hatching, how can you tell if there carrying carrying eggs ,and what time do they usually come out to lay eggs.

The month that tortoises lay eggs varies with their latitude (earlier in the south, later in the north), habitat, and local weather conditions. Generally, they lay eggs in the spring. The incubation period also depends on lots of factors, but ranges between 90 and 110 days (fewer days in the south, more in the north). You cannot tell if a tortoise is carrying eggs because of the shell. I don’t know what time of day they usually deposit their eggs, but I would guess it is during their peak activity times when the sun is warm, but not too hot. Here in central Florida in the spring, those time are mid-morning and late afternoon.       Becky

From: cslandis, Date: June 30, 2009, Subject: Cohabitation

Scenario: Yesterday my frantic wife called to inform me that she had just encountered a Pygmy Rattlesnake on our front porch.
Question: We live on a 1/2 acre plot in Western Putnam County completely saturated with Gopher Tortoises...our newest guest has excavated some real estate next to the foundation of our house. Do Gopher Tortoises cohabitate with Pygmy Rattlers and should we worry about future encounters with more snakes base on this??

There are more than 60 species of vertebrates (animals with backbones) and 300+ species of invertebrates (bugs) that have been documented using gopher tortoise burrows. Pygmy rattlesnakes are one of them, as are several other species of venomous and nonvenomous snakes. However, pygmy rattlers typically live in wetter habitats, such as pine flatwoods, hammocks, and cypress swamps. My guess is that the snake is (was?) just passing through and will move on.
Just watch out for the next few days. If you see him (or another one) more than once, carefully put a bucket, garbage can, or something like that over him and call your local animal control.       Becky

From: Nolan, Date: June 29, 2009, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Burrow Construction

I have several Gopher Tortoises on my property and they are welcomed friends. We built our house on 1/2 acre with a 1/2 acre vacant lot next door that houses several Gopher Tortoises and about 2 acres of dry retention pond area across the street that is also home to several.
My Question: When a Gopher Tortoise burrows where is the excavated dirt/sand deposited? The mound at the entrance can't possibly be all of the excavated soil if the burrow is 15-20 feet long?
I had a small burrow cave-in in at the edge of my foundation that I suspect was an old burrow that was not completely compacted when the house was built. I filled it with sand and it seems to be OK. I just wondered how a Gopher Tortoise can relocate so much soil without seeing a larger mound unless he shifts it behind him as he burrows and if he does how does he breathe?
Thanks for helping me solve this mystery of nature. My research on the web has not turned up the answer or this question.
Thanks in advance,       Nolan

Hi Nolan,
Great question! The sand/dirt that you see on the apron in front of the burrow mouth is all that the tortoise brings out. The rest of the dirt is compacted very tightly on the top, sides, and bottom of the burrow as the tortoise digs. Even when a burrow is constructed in sugar sand, it still holds its shape for years, if it is used regularly.       Becky

 From: Hidden River, Date: June 27, 2009, Subject: problem tortoise......

Hello - and thanks for being here.......
I have a campground and a gopher has tunneled in under the corner of my bathhouse - the hole is large and I am concerned it will undermine the slab - I don't want to harm the gopher as I protect them here.....what is the best way to get it or them out of the tunnel so I can fill it in?
AND - is there something I can use in areas where I don't want them making a burrow, to deter them? Moth balls are good for I here.
Any help will be appreciated.       Billie

Hi Billie,
I hear about similar situations frequently, but have never been told that actual damage was caused. The burrows go down at about a 45 degree angle from the mouth, so there is lots of dirt between the tunnel and your slab pretty quickly. The best (and legal) thing to do is just let it be. If the burrow is new, the tortoise may not stay there long anyway.
I know of nothing that deters tortoises, other than physical barricades.
Because they are protected, moving tortoises, collapsing burrows, harassment, feeding, etc., etc., are all illegal. Hopefully, you can just coexist with them. Besides, if I were a customer in your campground, I would LOVE seeing the tortoises around the area.       Becky

From: Holly, Date: June 12, 2009, Subject: {swim?}

I am having a debate with my husband. He believes all turtles can swim. Your input, regardless of the outcome, would be greatly appreciated. We are teaching a 7 yr old. Accuate information is a nessecity.       Holly

Dear Holly,
Most turtles spend the majority of their lives in the water. However, some species are land-based. Gopher tortoises fall into the second group, as do all other tortoises and box turtles. They might be able to swim very short distances, or walk along the bottom in water, but they would certainly drown quickly if they could not get onto dry land in a hurry.       Becky

From: Mike and Patty, Date: June 9, 2009, Subject: [fighting or mating]

We have at least 3 gopher turtles on about 4 acres. The other day they were fighting I guess in the yard. They were trying to turn each other over. I did break them up eventually because I was worried one may not turn back over. Then yesterday the biggest one of the two fighting or maybe now they were mating? Laid eggs in our front yard. Any info to try and keep anyone from walking on them and were they fighting or mating? Thank you,       Patty

Hi Patty,
It is difficult for me to guess exactly what is going on there. They could be fighting and mating, depending on the female’s mood. Typically, mating does not include turning the enemy over onto its back, because that can be fatal.
Did she just lay the eggs on top of the ground? Tortoises dig nests, often in the sandy mound in front of a burrow, place the eggs in there and cover them up. If she shed the eggs onto the ground without a nest, they must have been infertile or something is wrong with her and she can’t dig a nest.

From: Samantha, Date: June 8, 2009, Subject: need help with a little turtleSamantha's turtle

Hi, I found this little guy in the middle of the road. Almost hit him myself. He looked like a little rock and not until I was over him did I realize that he was a turtle. I turned around and picked him up but want to make sure he's not a gopher. I am almost positive he is a box turtle but he is mean. He tries to bite and I've heard box turtles aren't supposed to be aggressive. He can close himself up in his shell like a boxy though. If you could help us out so that we can relocate him appropriately, that would be awesome. Oh yeah, he has a couple of little bumps under his chin and his tail has little bumps all the way down. You can kind of see them in the last picture where I'm holding him. Thank you so much! ~Sam

Hi Sam,
I think it is a stinkpot. They are water turtles. Any pond, lake, or ditch would be a fine home. It is probably pretty young, so a good place should have some vegetation where it can hide.
Feel free to write back if you need more information.

From: Raymond, Date: June 7, 2009, Subject: Laying time

I work with the gopher tortoise conservation program at Reed Bingham State Park in Colquitt and Cook counties here in south Ga. At this time we are collecting eggs for incubation. There doesn't seem to be a best time for searching and I was wondering if it is known what time of the day do tortoises lay their eggs.

Hi Raymond,
I don’t know what time of day is best, and am not sure that kind of data have ever been collected. It is probably more of a temperature thing than exact time of day. The tortoise has to be fairly active for an extended period of time digging the nest cavity, laying the eggs, and covering the nest. My guess is that whatever your peak feeding activity time is would be the best time to look. Ours here on Kennedy Space Center during the spring egg laying time is 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., at least during “normal” weather.
Good luck! Feel free to write back if you need more information. You might also look on the Gopher Tortoise Council website.

From: Terri, Date: June 6, 2009, Subject: Cut or scratch over the eye?

Your website is great and full of helpful information-thought I didn't see this question. We have had a very funny Gopher Turtle living in our backyard for about 3 months now, and today we noticed he seems to have a cut over his left eye. It looks like it may have a whitish scab over it, but is there anything that can be done for him? Does this merit a trip to the vet, or just let nature take it's course? We think he may have scratched it coming in or out of his favorite burrowing spot, which happens to be underneath my son's Hot Wheels Motorcycle.
I have to tell you, this guy, or girl, has a personality! He has the run of our entire backyard, and he comes up to our back sliding glass door and knocks on it with his head! It's like he wants my son to come out and play with him! He thinks he's a dog! We have very limited contact with him, but he seems to think we are his family. We have an outdoor cat that that thinks that the turtle is part of the family too.
Any info you can tell me would be most appreciated!!!

Hi Anabel,
Sounds like you have quite a tenant. The best thing to do is let nature take its course with the cut above the eye. As long as the tortoise is out and about, eating, and generally acting normally, I would not worry. If you notice him sitting out of his burrow at weird times (night or in the rain), then I would be concerned.
I have heard of tortoises coming up to people’s sliding glass doors and patios, and sometimes even into the house. Just let him/her go about business as usual, and enjoy the show!
Thanks for the kind words about the website. We have a wonderful webmaster that does the hard work.

From: angela_, Subject: is this a gopher tortoise, Date: June 5, 2009gopher tortoise-1?

My 6 year old daughter rescued this little girl (we think it's a girl anyway) from being eaten and before we say she can keep it or not we want tomake sure it isnt a Gopher Tortoise because we know they are protected and it's unlawful to keep one. I'm attaching the pics we took of it.
Thank you
Angela and Victoria Ferreira

Yes.       Becky

From: Humberto, Date: June 4, 2009, Subject: Two headed tortoise follow up

Hi, I just found out about your great page. There was a question back in Sep 2005 from Gary regarding a two-headed tortoise. Since the page ends in June 2006 I'm hoping that; 1) You are still receiving emails and 2)wondering how that story ended.
Thanks in advance       Bert

Hi Bert,
Yes, we are still receiving emails. As far as the two-headed tortoise, you probably know as much as I do. I replied to the person that had it, but never heard another thing about it.
Thanks for the kind words about the page. It’s fun.       Becky

From: Paul, Date: May 31, 2009

how long after a gopher turtle lays it eggs will it take them to hatch? , and is there any thing i can do to protect the nest. from predators?

Hi Paul,
It takes between 80 and 110 days for the eggs to hatch once they are laid. The length of time varies depending on your location’s latitude, with nests in the northern part of the range taking longer to hatch than those in the south. As far as nest protection, the best thing to do is let them be. Any manipulation of the nest or surrounding area is illegal. Besides, too much human activity will attract predators. If you or others in the vicinity have cats and/or dogs, you can keep those animals away from the nest site.
In reality, the vast majority of gopher tortoise eggs and hatchlings don’t make it to adulthood. They are a food source for other animals. However, if each adult tortoise replaces itself once during its lifetime, the population will remain stable and that is a good thing.
Write back if you need more information.

From: Shannon, Date: May 30, 2009, Subject: juvenile tortoises sharing a burrow

Hi there,
We live in east seminole county and are fortunate to have several gopher tortoises sharing our yard with us. We have an adult female who has been here for years and four younger gophers we are guessing are her offspring from three different clutches. The largest juvenile measures about 4 inches long x 3 1/2 wide, the middle one measures 3 x 2 1/2 and our two newest babies are both about 2 x 1 1/2. What is interesting about the two newbies is that they are sharing a burrow along our fence line. It took me several days to realize that there were actually two new babies rather than just one - but now I see them out together on a daily basis and have watched them both enter and emerge from the same burrow (they live right outside my bedroom window). I knew that gophers shared their burrows with other species, but didn't know that they themselves cohabitate. Is this common? Also, do you think that all the gophers could be from the same mother or just coincidentally all moved to our yard? Thanks so much for any info - we always like to learn more about our gopher friends.
have a great day!       Shannon

Hi Shannon,
From our radiotracking work here on Kennedy Space Center, we know that tortoises will share burrows occasionally. People often assume it has to do with mating, but we found that it usually is two males. Go figure.
When hatchlings emerge from the nest, their first priorities are food and shelter. They will often use adult burrows, or dig their own little ones. It is very likely that the two babies are from the same clutch of eggs, probably hatched last summer. If you have one large female, all of the other smaller tortoises could be her offspring from over several years. There must be an unrelated male around there somewhere, but he might come in from a longer distance.
Hope this is helpful. Let me know if you need more information.

From: Jack, Date: May 30, 2009, Subject: great habitat here

The gopher tortoises that live on my land are just amazing. Multiple burrows. A full adult female lives 20 feet from my house. It has definitely been mating season. Males are coming from evrywhere to seek her out. They come from very long distances. One male, however, has been living in another burrow about 30 feet from hers. I have watched them mate. Well, here is my question. When she lays her eggs, which I will scout the property to look for, how do I protect them? There is a juvenile one, I guess to be about 2 yrs old that has been here up until the last two weeks. I have not seen it lately though. I never ever pick them up or disturb them. While I was on this computor the baby had crawled into the front door and visited me. I turned around and he was in the middle of the livingroom. I just let it do what it needed to. It just turned around and walked right back out the door and went home.
I am concerned about the eggs when they come. A red fox cruises through as well as a hawk or two. I can control the fire ants, as I am a licensed pest control operator. Once the eggs are layed should I just let nature take its course?

Sounds like you have a great situation and a wonderful attitude. My suggestion is that you let nature take its course, mostly because manipulating the tortoises or their environment is illegal, but also because any changes to the nest or surroundings might alter the outcome. Staying away from the nest area is a good idea so that you don’t leave a scent that would attract predators.
Quite frankly, we know from research that very few eggs or juvenile tortoises survive to become adults. They are mostly a food source for other animals. However, as long as each adult replaces itself once during its lifetime, the population will remain stable, and that is a good thing.
I hope this is helpful. Feel free to write back if you need more information.

From: BARRACUDATOO, Date: May 28, 2009, Subject: BABY

My german shephard as just brought me a baby gopher turtle.  This one she didn't kill.  She brought me last week that she had killed.  What do i do with a baby gopher turtle?  It is not quite 3" long from head to tail.

Take the baby back to wherever you think the dog found it. Look for an adult burrow and release it in there, or place it under some vegetation where it is hidden from predators.
Gopher tortoises are legally protected. It is your responsibility to keep your dog from harming them. Please either put your dog on a leash or go with her while she is out, or don’t allow her in the area where the tortoises are. If you need more information, please feel free to write me back.

From: cindy, Date: May 25, 2009, Subject: turtle in my garden

Is there a natural deterrent for gopher turtles? I'd like to use some kind of natural/organic deterrent. Maybe cayenne pepper? A friend suggested buying dried blood? I worked really hard to make a vegetable garden, and the turtle burrowed way under the chain link fence and popped up in the middle of my beans and cucumbers. I was a little upset at first about the hole, but he wasn't bothering my plants at that time. Just was nibbling on the grass growing around my raised beds. So that was ok for the time. BUT now has demolished all my cucumbers and pole beans (and were a lot of plants) and now is starting in on my melons. What else can I do beside purchasing chicken wire and burying it to deter the turtle? How far can they tunnel underground? I am going to have to spray my tomatoes with something soon, he hasn't touched them but BEETLES now are trashing my tomatoes. ANY suggestions PLEASE....

The only thing you can legally do is fence the tortoise out of your yard. They can dig under, so if you go the chicken wire route, you should bury it at least 18 inches. Another easier, cheaper alternative is to put hay bales around the garden. The tortoise will not dig under because it can’t see through them. We use hay bales in lots of situations where we are trying to keep tortoises in. You can often get hay very inexpensively, or even free, if it is old and not usable for livestock. Call a local feed store or farm and see what they say.
The length and depth of burrows depends on the type of soil and how close the water table or limestone layer (or whatever is beneath the soil) is to the surface of the ground.
I’m just curious. Where does your friend buy dried blood and what kind of blood is it??
Write back if you need more information.

From: David, Date: May 25, 2009, Subject: help with tortoise id

gopher tortoise

We live in central Alabama and recently found this tortoise in a parking lot. It was obviously someone's pet, as it has "Bubba T." painted on its shell. Someone told us it was a Russian Tortoise, but after doing some research, I believe it may be a Gopher Tortoise. Please look at the attached pictures and see if you can identify from them. I don't want to release if it is not indigenous, or would not survive because of being raised in captivity. I've tried to feed red leaf lettuce, dandelion greens, romaine, carrot shreds, and pellets and he will not eat. Please help.
Thanks!       David and Penny

Hi David and Penny,
That is a gopher tortoise and is legally protected by the State. It doesn’t look particularly healthy to me and may be dehydrated. Set it in a shallow pan of water and let it soak for 10 or 15 minutes, or as long as it will sit in there. I suggest that you call the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (334) 242-3465, and ask them what you should do. Try to speak to a tortoise biologist when you call.
I agree that turning it loose is not a good idea. If you do not get anywhere with the State people, write me back and I will try to help.

From: Monica, Date: May 23, 2009, Subject: Gopher tortoise question

Hi! I know you get lots of these, but....... I live in Keystone Heights, FL, and have a 2.5 acre lot and I know of a couple of burrows. I hadn't seen any tortoises recently until today when I was in the back yard where there is an abundance of blackberry bushes, and I had a craving...... :) Anyway, I saw the gopher tortoise eating a blackberry, gave him/her a couple of mine, then moved away to see what it would do. It ate the blackberries I had put down, then took off for another burrow under an old log. This area is pretty open, but there are a lot of winged sumac trees growing up in the area. Should I try and cut some of them down?? There's plenty of low-growing blackberries for now, and there's also an abundance of....... gopher apples, I think they're called? I also have areas of thick sand pine, should I clear some of them out as well to help? This tortoise was approximately 6 to 8 inches long, the front of its shell had a nick off to the side of its head. Thank you for your help! Have a great weekend!
Yours,       Monica

Hi Monica,
Getting rid of trees and tall brush that blocks the sunlight and inhibits growth of grasses and other low-growing vegetation is a good thing. I have attached a chapter written by a tortoise researcher that discusses having tortoises in your yard. This material is copyrighted, so use it for your own education only, please. Feel free to write me back if you need more information. Good luck and have fun!

From: Karen, Date: May 21, 2009, Subject: A found turtle

Pet'sMart identified a turtle I found as a Gopher. It was in back of my gated community where there is a fensed in, grassy area which is fenced in both from the street and the houses. In reading questions others have asked I think I should put him/her back but that is where I let my dogs run loose. Actually they are the ones who found him/her. I have a fenced in pond area next to my house where we have him/her but yesterday he got out, neighbors found it in a near by cul du sac. What should I do? Should I take it to a park, if so can you suggest which one? I live in N. Miami.
Thanks, Karen

Hi Karen,
The gopher tortoise is legally protected by the State of Florida. You need to take the tortoise back to exactly where you found it and release it. It is illegal to move it somewhere else. Besides, it will just try to get back to its home and probably get into some kind of trouble (run over or fall into something) on the way. It is your responsibility to keep your dogs from hurting the tortoise.
When you take it back behind the community, look for a burrow and put it there. Otherwise, just place it on the ground in the shade and let it go. Pat him on the head and wish him luck. : )
Feel free to write back if you need more information.

From: Ada, Date: May 16, 2009, Subject: baby tortoise in my backyard

I discovered a small golpher tortoise in my flower bed yesterday. It is about 2-1/2 to 3-inches in diameter and has yellow- outlined brown-gray designs on its shell. It was wonderful to just sit and watch it roam around eating twigs and grass around a cassia tree I've planted. It either can't see very far and didn't know I was there or was not afraid of me. After awhile, it burrowed into a blue sage underplanting the cassia - maybe it is its home?
We have two adult red shouldered hawks and their young hawk living in the oak next door that have cleaned the neighborhood of ground creatures. Is the little tortoise in danger?
Is it O.K. on its own? It seems so small.
Do I need to supplement its diet with anything?
Thank you for helping!

I can’t promise that the hawks won’t get the tortoise. About 99% of hatchling tortoises get eaten before they are a year old. They are an important food source for lots of animals, but that isn’t fun to know when you have one that has become “special”. If it is walking around, eating, and finding shelter, it is able to survive on its own, and hopefully, it won’t get eaten.
I have attached an article about having tortoises in your yard from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote. It is copyrighted material, so please use it for your own education only.
Good luck!       Becky

From: Debbie, Date: May 7, 2009, Subject: Need Help to Identify a turtle or tortosie

After looking at your web site I need some help to identify this turtle in the pictures. I live in Oklahoma City and while I was gardening I turned around and there he was on the grass. He has be either blown in from the awful winds that we have or was in some potting soil or mulch. I want to keep him but don't' know what kind it is. Could you please help me?
And we are not sure if he is not a tortoise either.
Please advise with your help.
Thanks so much       Debbie

It looks like a box turtle hatchling. Here is a website that will help you if you decide to keep him:


From: Ydaeral1, Date: May 2, 2009, Subject: tourtises on property for sale

Hi..we went to look at a house today for sale, I have one horse and want to put her on the property, There is two big holes from the tourtoises, and one in the garden under the house. the ones in the yard are a problem as the horse can break her leg. My question is I know they are protected, so can they be moved by proper authorities? and who has if any say the current owner of the property, or the person looking to buy the house?please advise ..dont want to hurt them, and we dont know the proper channels for help. thanks and have a good day carol bell lakeland fla

Hi Carol,
If the property is near Lakeland, you should contact the northeast regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (website link below). When you call, ask for the tortoise biologist. They can tell you if it is possible to move the tortoises and how to go about getting that done. I am sure that if they issue you a permit, it will cost several hundred dollars to get the tortoises relocated.
My suggestion is that, if you buy the property, you simply flag around the area of the burrows so that your horse can see them. Lots of people with horses and cattle have the exact same issues (tortoises love pastures) and flagging works for them.
Feel free to write back if you need more information.



From: Kayle, Date: April 25, 2009, Subject: gopher tortoise question [sex]Female Gopher tortoise

how can you tell a gopher turtles gender.

The bottom shell of a female is absolutely flat, while the male's is concave. I attached pictures.

Male Gopher tortoise



From: Tracy Lynne, Date: April 24, 2009, Subject: Gopher tortoise

We have a Gopher Tortoise that has been diggiing massive holes under our home and travels back and forth across the street. A lot of folks try to catch it.
Can someone get it and relocate it? Our home is getting destroyed. Both of our porches have huge holes and I am worried about the foundation. Help!
Thanks. TracyTracy,

You will need a permit to relocate the tortoise. If you tell me what state and county you live in, I can tell you who to contact.
Many, many people have written me over the years that tortoises have dug alongside their houses, sheds, and other structures. I have never heard once of there being any structural damage. The burrows go back at an angle and get deep pretty quickly.

From: "Christine aka Seraphiel," Date: April 21, 2009, Subject: I love these little guys....

Hello and greetings from North Port FL
I live across Price BLVD from Little Salt Spring.
There are many empty lots on the two streets right around my house.
I have seen so many gopher tortoises around here it's just so much fun to walk the dog.
My question is this... and I didn't see it in your FAQ.... Do the burrows they dig have more than one opening?
Or is it just one tunnel dug down? Because I see sooooo many burrows... and I am sure there are even more in the
palmettos... because I can see freshly turned sand when I look thru the empty lots at times.
I really enjoy watching them as they nibble on my neighbors overly watered lawn LOL.
And my dog goes crazy over them... she just sees a "turtle" we tell her.. and she goes nuts
She nearly rips my arms off to get close, but I don't let her near them of course. We just like to watch them cruising around
and nibbling on greens. I wish I could get actual count of how many and what genders they are around here.
Anyhow.. thanks for your site.. I've been doing a lot of good reading and learning a lot.
Have a great day!

Hi Christine (Seraphiel),
Sounds like you have a fun situation going. The answer to your question is that each burrow has only one opening. However, each tortoise may have more than one burrow, so you can't assume that every burrow equals a tortoise. It is actually quite difficult to get accurate counts without doing a whole lot of work.
Thanks for the nice words about the site. We have a wonderful webmaster that does most of the hard work.
Take care and enjoy your neighbors!


From: wendy, Date: April 19, 2009, Subject: gopher turtle question [reclaimed water]

we have a gopher turtle that lives in our backyard and seems to roam the nieghborhood - we are pretty sure it is a female
but the question we have is about water
we don't know how gopher turtles get water but I am concerned that when we install our irrigation system
she may be harmed as the water will be reclaimed water
is this a valid concern? if so, what should we do?

Gopher tortoises get most of the water they need from the food they eat. However, they will sometimes drink water from puddles if it is available and the weather has been dry. There are no data to say if reclaimed water would be harmful or not. I would hope that the tortoise's instinct would stop it from eating or drinking anything that would be seriously dangerous. Lots of golf courses have loads of tortoises and they seem to be fine.
I can't tell you what to do about your irrigation system. Does the tortoise have a burrow there? Make sure the system trenches don't cut into the burrow. Having his yard sprayed frequently may chase the tortoise off, or he may think it is wonderful. Sorry I can't be more helpful, but please keep me posted on what happens. That way I can help other people in similar situations in the future.


From: Robert, Date: April 19, 2009, Subject: DINNER TIME

We have a gopher tortoise in our back yard.  What do they like to eat?  Do they like water?  How often do they get fed?  Do they prefer to be wild or can they adapt to be in a fenced area?  Thank you.
Olivia and Dylan

Dear Olivia and Dylan,
Gopher tortoises are legally protected by the State of Florida. You are not supposed to feed, water, or mess with them in any way. If the tortoise has chosen to be in your backyard, that is fine, but it cannot be kept there like a pet. It must be free to come and go on its own. Don't worry about the fence; it will dig under it if it wants to get out.
You can do things to your yard to make it more attractive and suitable for the tortoise. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote. It is copyrighted material, so please use it for your own education only.
My advice is to let him be, sit back, watch, and enjoy! Write back if you have other questions or need more information.

From: Fred, Date: April 15, 2009, Subject: Fw: Fred...Please identify the type of turtle.

Hi, Star Turtle?
A friend of mine took the below pic of a tortoise in his back yard in Orlando, Fl. He sent it to me for identification. What do you think? Note the unusually high pyramids on the carapace and the color and striping combination. Is this a young Gopher? The strips look like a box turtle but his face is that of a tortoise. Please let me know what you think.
Thanks Frederick

Hi Fred,
I am pretty sure this is a star tortoise. They are not native here and come from India and Sri Lanka. Your friend has probably found an animal that was bought as a pet, and escaped or was released. Can he get it? It needs to be cared for or it won't survive. If he can catch it, please write me back and I can help figure out what to do with it.


From: J, Date: April 15, 2009

A gopher tortoise is digging on the side and under my house, how do I stop this.

Tortoises love to dig where the dirt is already soft. I get lots of letters from people that have had the same thing happen. No one has ever told me that there were problems or any damage to the house. I suggest you leave it alone; it will probably move along before too long anyway.


From: TIMH..., Date: April 11, 2009, Subject: not a question

On April 6 a gopher tortoise showed up in our front yard on ne 12th ave in Ocala. This was this first one I have seen in many years. We use to see smaller ones all the time in the 70's but not even close to the size of this one. Tail to head 12+ inches and side to side 10 Inches. (Conservative)
We left him to go on his way.
April 11, it has been run over a couple blocks down from my house on a 30 MPH road and I moved it up into Wyomina park in the grass to let it die. Very sad.
As big as this animal was I cant see how it could not be seen by the driver who ran over it and they sure as h--- felt it when they did.
This old tortoise may very well been around in the woods behind my house at least since I have been here. For that matter when he was a juvenile 40 years ago I may of already met him.

Hi Tim,
Unfortunately, this is a common story. Thanks for caring.

From: "Cyf 18, Date: April 16, 2009

what do they do in their spare time? (not a joke q)
Nicole and Lois

Nicole and Lois,
Animals don't typically have "spare time" like we humans do. They have to spend their time surviving and making sure their species lives on. So, gopher tortoises hunt for food and eat it, hunt for mates, dig nests and lay eggs, and sleep.

From: "Cyf 18, Date: April 16, 2009, Subject: gopher tortoise question

How many gopher tortoises are there left in the world?

Hi Nicole,
The gopher tortoise only occurs in the southeast region of the U.S. We do not have a good estimate for the total number of tortoises remaining, but we do know that the population is declining.
Feel free to write back if you need more information.

From: GELLER, Date: April 7, 2009, Subject: female record size

What was the straight line carapace length of the record sized female?

Beats me! I will check around and see if anybody knows.

FroSnapping Turtlem: DianeL, Date: April 1, 2009, Subject: A question about an old turtle...

Can you tell me what kind or possible age of tortoise this may be?I saw it walking from a swampy area of our farm yesterday. I took some pictures of it with my dog so the size of the tortoise could be seen. The shell looked dull and had algae growing in some patches. Very long and large tail, bright eyes, and very wrinkled skin. After taking the pictures I left to watch it slowly make it's way back to the swamp area.
Thank you for any help,       Diane

Hi Diane,
It is a common snapping turtle. It looks pretty old because the scutes on its back are very worn, but I can't give you an exact age.
Thanks for the pictures; that really helps. Your dog is cute, andI hope he didn't get his nose chomped. They don't call them snapping turtles for nothing!

From: Roosgrammie61105, Date: March 30, 2009, Subject: Gopher Tortise

I have a young gopher tortoise. I have a permit to have him from the state. What I wanted to know is what do they like to eat as far as natural diet. I also have a African Spur thigh who is now about 35 pounds I fed both of them the same fresh veggie diet of romaine letups, egg plant, squash, Mellon, strawberries any thing that I can get cactus nopals prickly pears and so on. They are both thriving great but I want to give Spud what her spiciest likes. I should say when we were given the gopher we were told it was a baby spur thigh and at first they looked a lot alike. but then I noticed some differences and that's when I contacted the State forestry and sent them pictures of Spud and was told that she was indeed a Gopher but since I had no idea where she came from and I had had her for a few months I couldn't let her go back into the wild and I was offered the option of getting a permit to keep her. She is doing great she weighted about 2 grams when we first got her now she is about 5-6 grams maybe more havent weighted her lately. Any help you can give on a more natural diet would be greatly appericated. I should also say that Sam and Spud are not kept in the same inclosure. Sam doesn't like company and since Spud is about the size of her head we keep them apart.

Hi Mary,
I have attached a chapter from a workshop manual that was written by a friend of mine. It has a list of plants that are documented as gopher tortoise food items. This is copyrighted material, so please use it for your own education only. Also, below are a couple of website addresses that have lots of gopher tortoise information that you might find useful. Sounds like you are doing a good job.
Thanks,       Becky

From: CWright, Date: March 27, 2009, Subject: nest

Hi there,
They are such serious reptiles.....I witnessed one yesterday dig her nest and lay her eggs. The only reason I knew what she was doing was because I have seen sea turtles lay eggs on the beach. I have a picture in my camera, and it is an interesting one as she dug her hole next to a drainage cap, near the road on the neighbors lawn. Totally in the middle of civilization in NW Palm Bay. When she was done she carefully covered the eggs so that if I did not see her nesting I would not have been able to locate the nest.
My big question is....How long until the eggs hatch. They are "protected", if I remember correctly. And if they hatch where they are they will have a rough time in the middle of the neighborhood, next to a road, between two driveways.....
Carol Wright

Hi Carol,
It will take the nest somewhere around 90 days to hatch. No doubt the hatchlings will have a rough time of it, but, to tell the truth, very few hatchlings survive anyway, even in the wild. So, the best (and legal) thing to do is let them be and hopefully one or two may live to adulthood.

From: DJDJ0313, Date: March 28, 2009, Subject: question on gopher turtle!!!

When I came home this afternoon I found my neighbors dog chewing on a gopher turtle..I know its illeagle to do much with them in my state(Florida) but I felt I had to help him...Its late Sat evening and no vets are open.Also I can't get fl wildlife to answer their phone either. The turtles hind leg/tail area is very badly chewed...deep hole and was bleeding pretty bad. I applied some septic powder to this as well as some A&d ointment and a cloth tape cover to keep it on...Should I try and release it back into our yard,knowing the deep hole in its hind area is going to get full of dirt and things, or should I keep it till Monday when I can take it to a vet for treatment???...Thanks Dana

Dear Dana,
If you still have the tortoise, or can get it, definitely take it to a wildlife rehabilitator or vet. That tortoise will need some antibiotics to keep from getting infections. If you need help finding a place to take it, write me back and tell me your town and county.
Was the tortoise in your neighbor's yard, or was the dog running loose? Your neighbor needs to know that he is legally responsible for any damage that the dog does. Maybe you can tell him without causing a fuss. Good luck.

From: Tres Jolie, Date: March 27, 2009, Subject: injuried sulcata

A couple days ago a dog got ahold of our 8 month old tortoise, it punctured his shell on the middle right side. We took to vet and she cleaned him up and gave a 50/50 chance of survival. He goes back in 1 day for cleaning and more antibiotics. My question is – he is moving around but dragging his right foot, when touched he can pull it in, will this get better over time?

Dear Mark,
That is a good question to ask your vet. Depending on the kind of injury (muscle vs. bone vs. nerve), it may never heal, or it may just take some time. Tortoises are amazing creatures and I have seen them recover from some terrible injuries. Best of luck.

From: Lynn, Date: March 16, 2009, Subject: Gopher Tortoise

I was happy to come across your Web Page on the Gopher Tortoise.
You have saved many tonight, thank goodness!
I was walking in our 5 acre field this evening with my camera to see if I could see anything interesting and was quite annoyed at all the cactus we have growing. I knew that we have had a problem but my goodness, they have taken over most of the acreage along with the wild blackberries, it has been a couple of years since I had been out there. I also knew that we have always had a couple of gopher dens and was proud to have them. As I walked the field this evening I counted 13 holes, I think a couple are not being used though. So when I got back to the house I was excited to tell my husband about how may gopher turtles we may have and that I wanted to find a way to clean up the acreage of the cactus but not harm the turtles. That's when I found your web site....THANK GOODNESS....I had no idea that the cactus is a big part of their diet, I would have been sick if I had done anything to harm them.
I will do nothing to the field now, I am proud to be the provider of a safe haven for them. I hope more will come to, seeing as the cactus and blackberry are in abundance.
I do love turtles, all kinds and I do stop for turtles when I am driving. If I see one in the middle of the road I will stop and help him across to keep from being hit.
Thank you so very much!
Lynn, Lake City

Hi Lynn,
Am so glad that the website is doing some good! Thanks for letting me know. I have attached an article from a training manual that a friend of mine put together. It has a list of plants that are documented gopher tortoise food. Maybe you could plant some of those on your property.
Take care,       Becky

From: brokngeodes, Date: March 20, 2009, Subject: hibernation?

There is a gopher turtle in my yard that has been years for at least 15-20 years. I have only lived here about a year, so i was wondering... When do gopher turtles come out of hibernation in Central Florida?, my roomate is always worrying about "backwoods" people taking him off to eat him. And we'd like to know when we could expect him to come back out, so we can stop worrying about him. Thank you.

Tortoises here in central Florida don't typically hibernate through the winter. If the temperature gets into the mid-70s or above and the sun is out, they will come out of the burrow and feed, no matter what season it is. However, that doesn't mean that your tortoise has run into trouble. Every tortoise digs several burrows within its home range, so yours may be using another burrow elsewhere. Hopefully, he will return; just pay attention to signs that the burrow is active again.
Feel free to write me back if you need more information.

From: Norma Jean, Date: March 19, 2009, Subject: Burrowing under a home

A gopher turtle showed up in my neighbor's yard 2 days ago; in the evening he went to check on it and it was burrowing underneath the side of my home where my fireplace is located. It has now burrowed further underneath the house and I am concerned about damage to my foundation. We looked in the hole with a flash light and it seems to go about 12 ft. already! What can I do?
Norma Jean

Dear Norma Jean,
This is actually a very common occurrence. People write me about it quite often, and I see it myself all of the time. Gopher tortoises love putting their burrows next to structures (fences, a.c. units, pools, sheds, houses, etc.) and I think it is because the dirt is already soft. It makes the digging job easier. Not once have I ever seen or heard of structural damage being caused by a burrow.
If the tortoise is new to your yard, he may not stay around anyway. It is likely that he got displaced from wherever he was living and is looking for a new home. Maybe he will stay with you. If so, I would consider myself to be lucky, sit back, and enjoy.
Here are a couple of websites that have more information, and you can write me back as well.

From: Kelly, Date: March 16, 2009, Subject: turtle ID?

My husband noticed this little guy or gal in our side yard today when bringing in the trash cans. I'm not positive on what type of tortoise it is. We live in Savannah, GA which seems to be within the gopher turtle's range. We just bought our house a few weeks ago so I'm wondering if he is a forgotten pet or a new neighbor :) i put him back where i found him in my yard, but i'm not sure if there is a real way out of it as its enclosed by a brick fence/wall-Kelly

Hi Kelly,
It is box turtle.

From: Marcella, Date: February 27, 2009

I would like to know why there are so many holes and you almost never see a turtle? How many holes does 1 turtle dig? Why are there so many along and close to the highway?
Thank you Ted shepard

Dear Ted,
Every tortoise digs and uses several burrows. Here on Kennedy Space Center, males averaged 15 burrows apiece and females averaged nine. It makes sense for a cold-blooded (i.e., cannot regulate its body temperature) to have many places for escape throughout its home range.
Tortoises often dig burrows along the road shoulder and in other open areas because the surrounding habitat is too overgrown to be good for burrow digging and feeding. This is because we no longer have fire going through the habitat to keep it cleaned out and open for animals and low-growing plants, grasses, and herbs. Many of our native habitats depend on fire to be healthy, but lots of people don't understand that and are afraid to have fire and smoke near their homes and businesses.
Feel free to write back if you need more information.

From: sherrie, Date: February 27, 2009, Subject: Help

Thank you for your time and trouble.
When my children were little, they rescued a tortoise from a group of boys who were going to kill it. I called the reptile section of the Atlanta Zoo to see what kind of tortoise it was, and they said it was a gopher tortoise. The man said to take it to a large lake and release it, so that is what we did. My problem is that we released it into the water at the edge of the lake. It swam out about 20 feet and went under. I have worried for years that it may have drowned. Do you think that is what happened.

Dear Sherrie,
I am not quite sure what to tell you. First of all, gopher tortoises do not occur as far north as Atlanta. However, people tend to move them around, so it is not impossible that the tortoise you picked up was a gopher. I would not trust what the gentleman at the zoo told you because if it was, in fact, a gopher tortoise (or tortoise of any kind), the last place you would put it would be in the water. Let's just hope that it wasn't a tortoise and that it swam off to live happily ever after.
If that is not the case, it certainly wasn't your fault and you did the best you could. I think it is time for you to forget about it and stop worrying. O.K?

From: hunterbugsy, Date: February 10, 2009, Subject: turtle question

Hi Becky,
I was in Walmart the other day and saw a product to catch a gopher. Apparently it snaps down on their mouth. Is this legal??
Thank you for your time.       Jeanne

Hi Jeanne,
Yes, that would be illegal in any state where gopher tortoises occur. My guess is that they were talking about the mammal gophers and not tortoises. Next time you are in your Wal-mart, check it out and let me know.
Thanks,       Becky

From: kdixon09, Date: February 9, 2009, Subject: Gopher Tortoise in California

I have a male and female desert tortoise that were born in captivity 18 yars ago.They have become a very productive couple over the years. Because my neighbores are aware of my love for these creatures they abandoned a small turtle in a box at my front door. It was fairly small so it looked very much like a desert however after seeing it dig and the fact it has not hibernated I thought I should do some research. I found your website and discovered it is a gopher. My desert tortoises are legally registered but now I have no idea what I should do with this new little guy. California is probably not the place he should be anyway. Any suggestions? I guess I could just let him dig but we live in the city and I 'm sure this is not a safe place for him. Help!
Thanks.       Kathy

Hi Kathy,
Your tortoise may not be a gopher tortoise. My guess is that it is an exotic species that someone got at a pet store. Is there any way you can find out where it came from? If not, try to take it somewhere (a zoo, university biology department with a herpetologist, herp society) and get it identified. If you can email me some pictures (all angles), I may be able to tell, or find someone who can.
Write me back.       Becky

From: Esther, Date: February 9, 2009, Subject: I have a desert tortoise

One of my tortoises did not hibernate long this year. He has caught a cold. I have seperated him and put him in a warmer environment. Can you tell me what I can give him to help him along?

Hi Esther,
I suggest you get your tortoise to a vet with reptile experience or a wildlife rehabilitator. There are many diseases that look like a "cold", but may need treatment. Some of these are contagious and your other tortoises could be at risk.
If you don't know where to take him, contact the Desert Tortoise Council and they should be able to give you some guidance:
Write me back if I can help you.

From: Valerie, Date: January 25, 2009, Subject: no question just a picture for you

Tortoises trying to mate. I found your site via google. We live on Pine Island and have a house on ½ acre with several burrows as wells as several the vacant lots around us.
These two were at it or at least trying about two weeks ago. He is much smaller than her.Gained lots of info your Q/A. Can you send me the training manual chapter on grasses to plant that you referred to numerous times.
Thank you.       Valerie

Hi Valerie,
Great pictures. Would you mind if I used them sometimes when I do educational presentations? I will put the photographer's name on them if you send it to me.
Attached is the chapter you requested. It is copyrighted information, so please use it for your own education only.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Rev. Lisa, Date: January 25, 2009, Subject: how to capture and release??

My husband and I just moved into a house on the island of Venice that was empty for four years. We noticed from the first that to the left of our front door, under a large rock, there is a 6" opening that seems to go into a burrow. The dog (a cairn terrier) was excited by it, but we were able to keep him from digging into it. A few weeks ago, we noticed droppings on the walk in front of the porch that look just like the ones we've seen while bike riding on intercoastal waterway in Venice. And a few days later, I noticed a similar hole dug under the patio toward the pool. I also noticed the dog was no longer bothered by the hole near the front door. So now we assume the hole/burrow was made by a gopher tortoise who moved house.The dog started spending more and more time in the area of the pool cage above the new tunnel. He actually ripped open the screen the other day and disappeared into the hole. The sound of his barking under the patio--an odd sound! -- alerted us. We were able to pull him out, and hoped that the tortoise would get the message and move on so we could fill in the hold. We've kept our dog out of the pool cage for a few days, but judging from his reaction when we just let him out, the tortoise is still there.
So--we have a huge hole we need to repair but don't want to until we know the tortoise is safe -- and it certainly isn't in a neighborhood where any number of dogs could disturb it. I'd like to release it near the intercoastal where it would be protected and have plenty of tortoise company. Advice?
Thank you.       Lisa & Jim

Dear Lisa and Jim,
Have you actually seen a tortoise, or just the holes? There are other animals that dig holes and it might be one of them. Will you send me some pictures of the holes, and the droppings as well if you can do that?
Gopher tortoises are legally protected and you can't move them without a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (
Send me the pics and we'll go from there.

From: kaleeman, Date: January 21, 2009, Subject: Regulations

The Town of North Port is planning on building a dog park this year on land occupied by the gopher tortoise. Are there any regulations that can save the tortoise from a dog invasion of their homes?

KennethI would immediately contact both the city and your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (contact info below) and explain the situation. When you call the Commission, ask to speak to the tortoise biologist. Send the city a registered letter and keep a copy for yourself, or go speak at a city council meeting. The point is that you want them to acknowledge that the tortoises are there.
      Greg Holder, Regional Director Southwest Region
      3900 Drane Field Road
      Lakeland, FL 33811-1299
      (863) 648-3200
The city is legally obligated to consider the tortoises in their plans, and they will have to relocate them (as opposed to burying them). That can be very expensive and is no longer a simple process. That may be enough for them to change the dog park location.
Let me know if you need any more information or advice.

From: alice.-01, Date: January 20, 2009

how long would a horse field tortoise grew up to female and male could you tell me thanks from alice

Hi Alice,
Seven to ten years

From: sucharith, Date: January 20, 2009, Subject: Brown turtle

Hello sir,
sucharith from India(Bangalore) , I’m looking for a particular kinda turtle which will b brown in color, I mean the shell & the lower part will b in white that’s the stomach part, the turtule should have 20 nails, ie.. 5 each on the palms. Im seriously in search of this turtle with all these qualities. Kindly help me out in getting this. Please get back to me as soon as possible.
Thanks & Regards, Sucharith

Dear M Sucharith
There are hundreds of species of turtles and tortoises in the world. I suggest that you look on the internet or in books until you find what you are looking for, because I don't have a clue what kind of turtle you are describing. You can narrow your search if you know where this turtle is from, how large it is, etc.
Good luck! Becky

From: katrina, Date: January 19, 2009, Subject: Help Me ! [white lump]

I Have got a 18month old horsfield tortoise and i have noticed a white lump on the side if its face, it seems to be getting larger, what is it ? can you help??

I can't help you because I am not a veterinarian, and it would be very difficult to diagnose or treat something like that via email. Please take your tortoise to a veterinarian that has experience treating reptiles or to a wildlife rehabilitator.

From: Schoolu2, Date: January 19, 2009, Subject: (no subject) [mounds of sand]

are the dozens of mounds of sand that pop up in the yard this time of year, related to the gopher turtle?

If there is not a burrow opening next to the sand, it is not a gopher tortoise making the sand piles. It could be ants or pocket gophers. If you can send me a digital picture, I might be able to figure it out.

From: peter, Date: January 19, 2009, Subject: Enchanted Forest:

I have a small gopher tortoise living in my front yard. I always check on him and he’s become part of the household, albeit an outdoor member. We leave him alone, knowing that’s important, but the other day my Wife saw a small possum run down the hole. It’s been relatively cold the past week so he’s not expected to be out, but are older tortoises vulnerable to possums?

Around 64 different species of vertebrates and over 300 species of invertebrates have been documented using tortoise burrows. It is not surprising that a possum would run down the burrow in your yard when the weather has been so chilly. An adult tortoise is safe from just about anything, so I wouldn't be concerned about the tortoise's safety. However, if the possum makes the burrow nasty, or the tortoise just doesn't like him, the tortoise may move on. It is more likely that the possum was just looking for a temporary hideout and things will return to normal.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions, or to let me know what happens (that would help me know more for the next time somebody asks).
Thanks, Becky

From: alice.-01, Date: January 18, 2009, Subject: Fwd: [smallest tortoise?]

What is the smallest tortoise?

From what I could find, the Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) is 4 - 5 inches long. Here is a website that talks about them. Very interesting.,/

From: alice.-01, Date: January 18, 2009, Subject: Fwd: [take it outside]

is it ok for me to keep my horse field tortoise in a a tortoise table but take it outside every day so it can have a walk about when my dog is inside?

It sounds like that species will do fine inside if the housing is done properly. I have attached to websites that have good care sheets. They should answer your questions.
If you need more information, write me back.

From: Carol, Date: January 8, 2009, Subject: [code enforcement question]


We have lived in our home in central Florida for 7 ½ years. We have seen these turtles in our back yard off and on and we have holes burrowed into the hill in our back yard. My husband says that these are gopher turtles and are protected. We have recently been approached by code enforcement about mowing the hill behind our house. The hill goes down into a large retention pond. The hole in our yard are in several locations on this hill. My husband explained to them about the turtles but they don’t care. They just want the hill mowed. I am sending you several pictures we took back in 2007. My son is holding a turtle in one. This was before we thought they were gopher turtles. Can you confirm that they are or aren’t and if they are what is the law concerning them and do we have recourse.

Hi Carol,
They are gopher tortoises.
Mowing is not necessarily a bad thing because it keeps the vegetation short and young, which the tortoises will like. However, if the burrows get run over by large mowers, it may collapse them. The tortoises can dig out, but any other animals that might be using the burrows may not be able to. There is also a chance that tortoises could get hit by the mowers if the operators are not very careful. Increasing the amount of disturbance may cause the tortoises to look for a more quiet home.
090108b My suggestion is that you call the county (I assume you mean your county code enforcement) and ask someone in charge why the hill needs to be mowed. Tell them your concerns. Remind them that gopher tortoises are a threatened species and legally protected by the State of Florida. The burrows are also protected. If you don't receive a satisfactory response, tell them they can't mow.
You can also contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and tell them the situation. If you tell me what county you live in, I will send you the contact information.
Good luck and feel free to write back if I can help more.

From: Michelle, Date: December 30, 2008, Subject: ideas on vegetables, herbs?

Hello! We live in an area that is a preserve. We have abundant growth of trees etc., but not a lot in flowering bushes etc. My neighbor just pointed out that we have a gopher turtle living under (in a tunnel he made) a large landscape rock!
I read the Ashton list & we do not have those things. I know the gopher urtles goes out foraging, but would like to give it access to some better items. (He may be a she & she may be pregnant!) I wondered if it was acceptable to leave salad fixings outside her opening? I also wondered about buying a couple herb plants to plant close by. Would any of these tings hurt it?
As a child, occaisionally we would give our dime store turtles scraps of hot dogs--is that okay?? We have tremendous wildlife in the area--that concerns me, but I plan to let the turtle make it on its own, as nature expects.
Can you name a few foods in the house I can put out for vriety? Thank you!

Dear Shelly,
I understand that you are trying to help the tortoise, but PLEASE do not supplement its diet with any people food. If the tortoise has chosen to live there, it is because it has found what it needs to be healthy. If you give it something else, it may fill up on that and not get the nutrients that it really needs (kinda like me with chocolate). If you want to do something, look at the Ashton list and plant some of the things that are in there. If you go to a nursery that carries native plants, they will help you find plants that will grow well in your area.
Feel free to write back if you have more questions.
Thanks, Becky

From: bolkow; Date: January 1, 2009 7:26:00 PM EST; Subject: Enchanted Forest

I live in port st. Lucie and fell upon your web site.
First i want to thank you for working to educate people on the slow ,cruel demise of the florida gopher, such a harmless animal, i can't understand why people try so hard to kill them, i am glad that some work is being done to protect them.
I have tried to see to the safty of gophes for years, helping them cross the streets and keep them from harms way, if they are trying to cross the road, whether i am on my harley or my car, i will always stop and help them across the road, i have learned that they know where they want to go, so don't try to head them in a different direction, it won't work.
I live next to a forclosed home to which a gopher has decided to make a home in the side yard. I am trying to get the times of it's leavings and comings.
I am fortunate, i have connections to the fish and game to register the gopher, so when the new home owners show up, the will be told the gopher is registered and hope they don't tryanything stupid.
I am also trying to move them to a refuge for gophers here in port st. Lucie? Ft. Pierce area.
That is all i can do for now.
Thank you for the great site.

Dear Stash,
Thanks for the note.  These days, gopher tortoises need all the advocates they can get!
I am glad you enjoy the site and find it useful.
Happy New Year!

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