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

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From: Andrew, Subject: Sulcata tortoise not burrowing , Date: December 31, 2018

Hi, Becky.  I have a 2.5 year old sulcata tortoise who isn't burrowing despite the hot and cold weather in Phoenix.  We have a large patio where she can get 100% out of the sun in the summer but it's now getting very cold (mid 30s) and she hasn't burrowed.  I even built her a big and deep burrow this summer but she won't go into it.  We have a huge yard with lots of trees and dirt but she hasn't dug her own.   I've taken her inside at night due to the very low temperatures.  I'm not sure what to do.  If you can answer, wonderful...if not, do you have anyone else you can recommend?
Thanks!      Andrew

Hi Andrew,
      My apologies for taking so long to reply.
     From what I could find out, you should probably bring the tortoise inside or at least provide a heat source. Even if she was burrowing, it is doubtful that she would be deep enough to maintain an adequate temperature. She can probably survive the 30s for a while, but to keep her healthy for the long-term, I would not leave her out for long periods if the temps are below the 60s.
     All that being said, I am not a sulcata expert. You might look around your area for a herp club (people who keep amphibians and reptiles) and contact some of their members or go to a meeting to get more information.

From: Lauren, Subject: Tortoise crossing, December 17, 2018

We have a few (at least three from what I can tell) tortoises that cross our yard almost daily. We put up a fence for our dog and child. We have no burrows in our yard. Now at least two of the tortoises can't find their way around then fence. They have lots of room to cross around the front of house or around the back of the fence. I'm worried I've destroyed their path. Will they eventually just find their way around or do I need to call someone to help the tortoises? Thank you in advance.

      My apologies for taking so long to respond. Between vacation during the holidays and the government shutdown, I was cutoff for a while from my email.
      Are the tortoises still "stuck"? They can likely find their way around once they try the old route enough times unsuccessfully. They are also quite capable of digging under your fence. My only concern is that they would be caught outside (not in a burrow) when the temperatures are below 60. If that happens, I would take them to the closest burrow on the other side of the fence or to a wildlife rehabilitator if you can't find a burrow.
      Write me back, please.       Thanks, Becky

From: Beth, Subject: {Overgrown with invasive plants, Date: December 16, 2018

I live in Bonita Springs (Lee County).  There is a nice area of land that is managed by the county and FPL.  This has been prime habitat for gopher tortoises, and many burrows have been marked in the past by either researchers or officials.  Sadly, the area has become so overgrown with invasive plants that the tortoises seem to have a hard time maneuvering through the vegetation.  In turn, many tortoises are venturing into the lawns of my neighbors.  I find this delightful but others do not.  Tortoises have been removed and burrows filled (by both landowners and lawn maintenance).   I would love more information on how to continue to protect the tortoises including restoration, monitoring, and neighborhood alliance.
Thanks, Beth

Hi Beth,
      I apologize for taking so long to respond. Between my vacation over the holidays and the government shutdown, I was unable to access my email for a while.
      As you are probably aware, it is illegal for anyone to remove tortoises or fill in burrows without a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. I would contact your regional office (, ask for a tortoise biologist, and tell them what you have told me. Another resource, especially for educational material and advice on establishing a neighborhood group, is the Gopher Tortoise Council ( Start with those and if you don't find what you are looking for, write me back.

From: drose8336, Subject: shell is getting soft Date: November 26, 2018

Wrong with a gopher tortoise when it's shell started getting soft, top and bottom.  It is about 2 years old.  Still is eating.  Did it get too cold?

      Is this a wild animal or do you have it in captivity?
     I would suggest taking it to a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. If it's shell is getting soft, there is something wrong and it is not likely due to cold weather.
     If you need help finding a place to take it, write me back and tell me your state and county.
      Thank you,     Becky

From: Deborah, Subject: Young Gopher Tortoise Winter Weather Concerns, Date: November 11, 2018

There is a two month old gopher tortoise living between a neighbors house and mine here in Pensacola.  From what I can tell his/her burrow is not more than four or five inches in depth and I am concerned about it's survivability this winter.  It gets much colder here in the panhandle of Florida than the peninsula.  I'm wondering if there is anything I can do to the area surrounding his little burrow to assist in helping this little guy make it through the winter.  I hope you can give me some guidance other than "let nature take its course".
Thank you,       Deborah

Sorry, but my advice is "let nature take its course". This is the best thing for the tortoise and it is also the legal thing to do. When it starts cooling off, the tortoise will instinctively know to either deepen the burrow where it is now or find another burrow where it will be safe. It is important for the tortoise to do these things on its own; you might be around next year when it gets cold.

From: archielox, Subject: Are they nocturnal?, Date: November 10, 2018

Are they nocturnal ? One just dug a home in my yard

Gopher tortoises are typically active during the day, but will occasionally feed at night when the weather is warm.

From: laurin, Subject: Gopher Burrow Questions (NW Florida) {burrow is flooded?}, Date: October 23, 2018

My name is L. I live in the north west panhandle of Florida.

A gopher tortoise has a burrow in my yard and spends a lot of time out with my family and my dogs in the yard. It has become quite social and last year, we started calling it big boy. With time spent with our lovely cold blooded friend, lots of reading and researching, we believe the tortoise is actually a female. So i guess it's a big girl. She is about a foot long and in tortoise terms, seems very happy. She has a very healthy diet from our garden and eats almost all of our greens, strawberries, raspberries, ect... at this point, it has become her garden.

Even though we obey natures rules and we don't feed her directly, she has made herself a significant part of our all-creature loving family. She even comes out when we call to her. We leave her burrow and surrounding area alone and we set up a motion censored day / night camera so we can watch her area without disturbing her hole. Kids love it.

With this past significant storm, we have had some significant rain fall and wind. I know she is a wild reptile and she probably knows exactly what she is doing, but...she has been staying in her hole a lot more than usual the last two weeks. I have tried to look up and read further info but i was wondering, how long can she stay in the burrow? We try to be realistic and we figure, she was fine before us for however long, and she is probably fine now.... But still, we worry a bit.

Should we be worried?
Is it okay for the tortoise to stay in its burrow for long periods?
Is there anything we can do or not do to help?

Thanks so much, from a tortoise loving family in florida

Dear L and family,
     This is one of the best notes I have ever received through the Enchanted Forest website! I love that you can appreciate and adore "your tortoise" as a member of the tribe, but that you haven't tried to make it a pet or interfere with nature.
     There are a couple of different possibilities that I can think of to explain Big Girl's behavior. If her burrow is flooded, she may have moved into a different burrow outside of your yard. In natural situations, tortoises have several burrows to choose from within their home range. If that is what has happened, she may very well return when water levels recede. Another possibility is that she is just becoming less active now that fall has arrived and she will not be coming out of her burrow as often until spring. This is happening here in central Florida even though our temperatures are still plenty hot; it has as much to do with the animals being cued by the shorter period of light each day. Gopher tortoises are capable of slowing down their metabolism during winter and staying down in a burrow for many weeks at a time, particularly in the northern parts of the range. My suggestion is that you keep doing what you have been doing and see what happens.
     I sincerely hope that you and your family have not been seriously impacted by the hurricane. If you have any other questions or concerns about Big Girl, feel free to write me back.

From: Dawn, Subject: Potentially sick baby tortoise, Date: October 18, 2018
We are fortunate to have four GT burrows in our Alachua County yard. One of the babies is exhibiting very unusual behavior for a few days and we are quite concerned. The tortoise is sitting at the mouth of the burrow all day and does not hide when approached. It is alive, as we can see the legs moving a little, but seems very lethargic. Your advice is appreciated.

If you still have or can catch the tortoise, please take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. If you don't know where to take it, write me back.

From: Linda, Subject: How much does a permit cost to remove a tortoise from a residential property, Date: October 15, 2018

If you live in Florida, see for answers to your permit questions.

From: +12398782722, {Subject: baby - Mom}, Date: October 14, 2018
If a baby gopher turtle is alone will it find its way back to mom

Gopher tortoises (like most reptiles) do not take care of their kids. Once the eggs are laid or the babies born, they are on their own.

From: Molly, Subject: Baby Gopher Tortoise, Date: September 29, 2018
Very young gopher tortoise Do the mother's lead their babies away from the burrow when they are ready to be on their own? I live on 125 acres in Lafayette County, most of it very wooded and overgrown. I often see Gopher Tortoises and do everything I can to protect their habitat. Today I let my dog out to go to the bathroom and I saw that she had flipped a Gopher Tortoise over on it's back. I checked it to make sure it was uninjured and then watched it go back to it's burrow. A few hours later I let my dog out again and she went very close to the same spot and she picked up a baby Gopher Tortoise, only 2 inches long! I made her drop it, and then I took it back out to an area close to where she picked it up. Hoping that was the right thing to do!

Once the mother gopher tortoise lays her eggs (usually in a hole in front of a burrow), there is no interaction with her young. When the eggs hatch, the young tortoises tend to stay in a small area, but they feed and take care of themselves.
You definitely did the right thing letting the baby go back where your dog found it. See if you can train the dog to leave them alone. The young tortoise's shell is soft for around five years and a dog can easily kill or injure it.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Deborah, Subject: Injured Gopher Tortoise, Date: September 29, 2018
Where can we take a Gopher Tortoise that has been injured in the leg by our dog?

If you still have the tortoise, please take it to a wildlife hospital or wildlife rehabilitator. If you don't know where to go, write me back with your state and county location.
Thank you,       Becky

From: Jon, Subject: What do I do?, Date: September 22, 2018
Good morning,
We have a new visitor that the dog is not content to ignore. It has placed itself just outside the fence against the house and appears to want in. Has not moved since it arrived yesterday, should I bring it through the yard or wait it out?
Thank you,       J.Storz

Dear J,
If the tortoise (I assume you are asking about a tortoise) is still sitting outside and appears to be lost, please take it to a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. If you can't find one, write me back with your state and county location and I will help.
If it is still hanging around, please send me a couple of pictures.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Faith, Subject: This gopher tortoise was huge, Date: September 21, 2018
African spurred tortoise Today while mowing the yard, this large gopher tortoise walked through. He was at well over 2 feet long. Is there a way to tell how old he/she is? We live in Palm Bay, FL.

It's not a gopher tortoise. It's an African spurred tortoise, an exotic species that has either escaped or been let loose by its owners. They are often bought from pet stores when they are really little and cute, but quickly grow to be huge. If you know where it is, you might check around your neighborhood to see if someone is looking for it. If not, I would try to sell it or give it away. If you think you might want to keep it, please make sure that you know what you're getting into before deciding.

From: Elizabeth, Subject: {Overheated}, Date: September 20, 2018
There was a gopher ?? turtle across the street from my driveway, somehow laying on it's back. I'm in Florida. From what I can tell , it looks as though it may have been like that since this morning, it had grass and such stuck on it's shell from the dew. I flipped it over , poop came out, it's now 4:33. I left it alone, went to get my child from bus stop and came back and it has still been another 15 minutes since I got back and the turtle has yet to stick it's head out or move. When I flipped it over it's leg flinched a little. My question is , do you think it's ok from being on it's back all day in the hot, hot sun. I mean I know they are built for heat but I think all day on it's back in direct sunlight, no water, upside down, could hurt it, maybe? I have come inside hoping it has moved. Maybe it will take a while for it to move? I don't know much about turtles but I love all animals and worry for the poor thing. Anyways if someone could answer at the earliest convenience.
Thank you for your time.

It probably had/has some severe heat-related stress. If it still hasn't moved, please take it to a wildlife rehabilitator asap. If you don't know where one is in your area, write me back with the name of your county and I will help you locate one. In the meantime, put the tortoise in an open box and move it into a shady place, but not into the air conditioning.
Thanks,       Becky

From: Doug, Subject: Gopher Tortoise has burrow under the house., Date: September 12, 2018
We have a Gopher Tortoise that has made a burrow with two openings going under the front corner of the house in Saint Augustine.
We are worried that with large amounts of rain here in northern Florida, this can eventually cause a structural problem.
We here seen it a few times, but not far from the burrow and runs back.
If we can catch it, is it ok to relocate it?
What can or should we do, so the foundation of the house is not compromised?
Regards,       Douglas

Hi Douglas,
The gopher tortoise is legally protected so you can't catch it or move it without a permit.
That being said, I really don't believe you need to worry about the integrity of your house foundation. The burrow is only as wide as the tortoise and will go into the ground at about a 45 degree angle for 10 ­ 15 feet (average). The chamber at the bottom is only big enough for the tortoise to turn around. I have received this same question many times and have never heard of or seen a solid, sturdy structure compromised by a burrow.
However, if you are not sure about the integrity of your foundation and you are concerned, you can apply for a relocation permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ( Feel free to write back if you have more questions.

From: Kathy, Subject: Gopher turtles and dogs, Date: September 11, 2018
We live near a DRE and the turtles are either coming in the yard or are getting close enough for my dogs to pull them into our yard. We are going to put smaller chicken wire to try to prevent my dogs from being able to pull them in. Do you have any other suggestions I can use to keep them away completely so that my dogs don't try to play with them anymore. We love these little guys but we also love our dogs. Btw we have 6 dogs and most of them are obsessed with getting these turtles. Please help

The only thing I can suggest is fence the tortoises out or fence the dogs in. I might be able to be more helpful if you sent some pictures of your yard so I can better understand the situation.

From: Mike, Subject: Burrough in a difficult place., Date: September 11, 2018
Hi, my wife and I live in a rural residential area in lake county Fl.. we have at least one GT in our yard. There have been two Burroughs in the yard, approximately 15' from one another. We see a gt in the yard from time to time and enjoy watching him/her do it's thing. In the last couple of weeks we have another burrough at the edge of the house going under the foundation. The problem is that in that spot the hole is between the foundation and the irrigation system control area, and the dirt mound has covered the irrigation system zone control area.
My question is, if I leave the hole alone, and move the dirt mound to uncover the irrigation area will it effect the gt, or is there a way to discourage the gt from staying in that spot? I don't want the gt to leave our property, but I need access to that specific area from time to time.
Thanks, Michael

Hi Michael,
As long as you don't impact the burrow (the hole and the tunnel behind it under the ground), you should be able to disperse the sand in front of the burrow off of your irrigation spot. The mound is the sand that the tortoise pulled out to dig the burrow, so there shouldn't be any more coming. Occasionally, female tortoises will dig a hole in the mound, lay their eggs, and cover it back up, but it's not nesting season now, so you don't need to worry about that.
Thanks for being concerned and taking good care of your neighbors. J

From: blksandarabians, Subject: Gopher tortoise vs Florida Box turtle, Date: August 25, 2018
box turtle Hello I wrote to you about about 2 years ago when a baby gopher tortoise made a burrow in my yard. He has been doing great, but is very shy and does not come out much. I get very worried that a mower ran over him or something as he also goes in the neighbors yard sometimes. The man who mows assures me that he too is an animal lover and keeps a close look out when mowing. Just when I begin to panic there he is munching away. Little stinker. Well, I haven't seen him for about 2 weeks now. BUT when I walked out my front door tonight there was a beautiful Florida Box turtle sitting there! Geeze guess I should start charging for my zoo! Lol
But now my question is- do you think the box turtle scared away the baby gopher tortoise? The box turtle is pretty big, about 6 inches. Will it threaten the gopher tortoise? Is it possible it moved into the gopher tortoise burrow? Maybe it was just passing through, but I since haven't seen the baby I am worried. Can they coexist in the same yard? Hopefully I will see the baby soon and I can relax! Thanks in advance. By the way we have no ponds or water nearby for the box turtle, but it was storming here today.       Ginny

Hi Ginny,
That is a beautiful box turtle!
I have never heard of or witnessed a box turtle being aggressive to a tortoise. Maybe if the box turtle moved into the yard, the tortoise might have decided there wasn't enough room or food for both of them. Tortoises often move around to different burrows within their home range, so even if he is gone, he may come back later.
Just sit back and enjoy the show!       Becky

From: suzanne, Subject: Beach frolicking gopher tortoise, Date: August 25, 2018
Recently, I have spotted a gopher tortoise down at the waterline in Fernandina Beach, FL. Our local Facebook page just posted another incident of a wading tortoise. Can you provide any insight?
Thank you! Suzanne

It is not uncommon to see tortoises on the beach and even swimming in the ocean. Some people think it might be a way for them to get rid of parasites. Even if someone picks them up and moves them away from the water, they often head right back!

August 27, 2018
Thank you for the insight!! I put one back in the dunes a few months back, as it was rolling over and over as the surf was coming in. I'm hoping I saved him from drowning! I'll post your response to my local forum on FB, as this is a question that gets raised frequently!
Thanks for getting back so timely! Have a great day!
Kind regards,       Suzanne

Thank you. Feel free to write back anytime if you have or get more questions. I don't always have the answers, but can usually find them.       Becky

August 29, 2018
Thank you!! I have passed your email and web address onto my local FB forum in case there are more questions!       Suzanne 

From: gene, Subject: Stressed out Gopher!, Date: August 22, 2018
While hiking in Wickham Park, (Melbourne, FL.) I came upon a mature Gopher stuck behind the fence that almost surrounds the Soccer Fields there. He was desperately trying to get by the fence, if he had turned around, he could have got out. I went and picked him/her up. When I did, I noticed there was an inordinate amount of saliva/spit around his head, neck and the entire inside of his front, it was actually dripping.
I believe this was from stress as I am a keen observer of animal behaviors and had never seen a tortoise with that kind of affliction/behavior? Any way, I set him/her free and after about a minute, he trucked off! Any ideas?
Thanks, Geno

Hi Geno,
You did a good thing by moving him away from the fence. Sounds like he was overheated. Gopher tortoises can dig under fences, but not if they have gotten too hot. And you are right, they will walk in the "wrong" direction for miles when they could be free simply by turning around.
Thanks for being observant and doing something about it.

From: Jim, Subject: Franklin, a Special Friend, Date: August 20, 2018
Over twenty years ago, my wife and I built a new house in the woods. We relocated some palm trees to build a pool. After building a pool, our friend, Franklin, moved in. For over twenty years, Franklin has lived at the corner of our pool deck. We don't feed him or bother him and try to keep the dogs away from him. Our children gave him the name Franklin. Children are now grown and moved away, but always ask about their special friend.
Franklin's reputation has grown and our neighbors and winter visitors like to see him. Franklin is a bit of a ham and always provides a show by walking around the yard and eating on our plants. We live in a small community and when Franklin goes "walk about" people report his where a bout's.
We don't have any questions; but thought you would like to hear our story about Franklin.
Have a good day and God Bless.     Susan and Jim

Dear Susan and Jim,
Thank you so much for writing.
Your story really made me smile.
I printed it out and pinned it on my cubicle wall.
Franklin is a lucky tortoise!

From: Veronica, Subject: Protection Laws and codes, Date: August 19, 2018
There's two GT burrows on the hill behind our house in Sorrento that have been here since 2017 or sooner. I've been carefully cutting grass around 10 from the opening so as not to disturb them in case they are nesting. Unfortunately a person on the HOA has taken it upon himself to use a ride on mower to cut the grass on the open areas that used to be a golf course, but hasn't been for a decade. For some reason beyond what I can understand he came up on to our hill and mowed right over the top of the burrows. I ran out of the house to tell him that the burrows are protected by the FL law. He argued that he went around them and didn't know they are protected.v I called the Department of Fish and Wildlife to find out what the law is regarding ride on mowers. They said it was a violation. I put up posted signs and yellow ribbon around the 10 from Mark to let others know to keep back.
A few weeks later he was back on the hill coming up to our property while I was out there with my weed whacker cutting the grass. He drove his large mower right at me with grass flying out but I stood my ground so he started waving his arms for me to move out of his way . I took out my cell phone and tried to video him while yelling that he is breaking the law. He turned off his motor and argued with me again then drove away. I was physically shaken and worried for my safety if he should return with some other HOA president or something worse. So I called DFW again and this time the local ranger call me to say they have every right to be running over the mounds with a ride on mower and there's nothing he can do about it until the tortoise is killed, " Even then" he told me " I can't do anything because the harm was not malicious intent". I launched a compliant that started an investigation.
When his supervisor came to our house she kept giving me misinformation, saying that they lay their eggs " Way back , like 20 feet under the ground, so there's no way the eggs can be hurt by a lawnmower" when I expressed my concerns that they had mated and possibly had laid eggs. Then said there are no laws protection for this property because of the homestead designation when it was developed back in 2002.
This situation has caused me much anguish and frustrating times. Can you please explain what the law is. I think they have some agreement with the HOA but is it lawful? Each time I spoke with a wildlife alert hotline person they told me I was doing the right thing to report this activity which endangered the Gopher Tortoise. I'M be went through the website and it seems like a violation of "Take" through Harassment to the point that it's disruption to the natural behavior and reproduction of the species.
Any information on this is much appreciated.

The laws in Florida are clear. Gopher tortoise burrows cannot be disturbed or destroyed without a permit from the FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A minimum of a 25 foot buffer is required around a burrow. There are exceptions to the rule, but none of them apply in your case.
I suggest you call Samantha Dupree at (352)732-1225. She is the gopher tortoise biologist for your region. If this doesn't work, write me back. And PLEASE don't get run over by a lawn mower in the process!!!

From: Fiona, Subject: {shelter other animals?}, Date: August 17, 2018
Hi, I was wondering if gopher tortoises is providing shelter not only for themselves but for other animals what happens if the tortoises have to reduce? What happens to the other animals?

Over 300 species of invertebrates and vertebrates have been documented using gopher tortoise burrows. These animals are called commensals. The loss of gopher tortoises (and there burrows) is a serious concern for the biodiversity of an area and one of the reasons why gopher tortoises are protected by the states where they occur, and by the Endangered Species Act in the western portion of their range. Here are a couple of links to more information:
Feel free to write back if you have more questions.

From: john, Subject: Gopher turtle {not moving}, Date: August 16,
A gopher turtle crawled under my tree and has not moved for about a day. Is something wrong with him/her? Do I need to call and have someone come help him/her??

Please put the tortoise in an open box or bin and take it to a wildlife rehabilitator or wildlife hospital. If you don't know where to take it, write me back with your state and county location.
Thank you,     Becky

From: Kisha, Subject: Tortoise {what kind?}, Date: August 6, 2018
Help me identify this tortoise. Found a tortoise in my neighborhood. Not sure what kind it is would you be able to help me identify it. Thank you.

What state and county are you located in? Have you seen a burrow around the area?

From: Valerie, Subject: Feeding Gopher Tortoise, Date: July 16, 2018
This tortoise is in my landscaping We have a gopher tortoise that has burrowed in our landscaping in front of our home. Is it ok to give him the occasional raspberry/blueberry? We live in Port Charlotte, FL.
Also, do you know how long he will have his burrow? We don't mind but would like to repair the landscaping when he leaves. He's got a mound of sand taller than our bushes right outside his burrow.
How can you tell?
Thank you!   Valerie

Hi Valerie,
Even though the tortoise has made itself at home in your landscape plants, you are not supposed to feed it anything. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote that has information that you may find useful. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. Of course, if you don't feed the tortoise and don't make your yard attractive, it may decide to move on.
There is no way to predict how long it will stay. Sometimes tortoises use a burrow only during specific seasons. Sometimes they will dig a burrow, stay for a bit, and then leave forever. Sometimes they just stay, especially if there is nowhere nearby that is suitable for them.
Feel free to write back if you have other questions.

From: Diane, Subject: Fighting gopher turtles, Date: July 24, 2018
Fighting gopher turtles Hi,
Today I watched 2 gopher turtles fight for over 30 minutes. The larger one "pushed" the other all the way across our back yard. At one point it flipped the other turtle and then flipped it back. It finally ended when the smaller one finally flipped the big guy. It couldn't flip itself back so I used a long tree branch to turn it back over. They finally went their separate ways after that. Was this just a territorial thing? Hope I did the right thing helping it to turn over. I love watching these creatures.
Thanks,     Diane

Hi Diane,
It was good that you turned the tortoise over; if it stayed upside down in the heat for very long, it might have died. Sounds like they were having quite a brawl! It was likely two males trying to "own" the best area.
Thank you!     Becky

From: melissa Subject: Tortoise {found on doorstep}, Date: July 22, 2018
Gopher tortoise found on top dorstep. Hello! I was wondering if you could tell me what kind or tortoise this is? I found him on my top doorstep this morning and I am not sure if he is someone's pet or just a wild one on an adventure.
Thank you, Melissa

Hi Melissa,
If you are located in the southeast U.S., it is a gopher tortoise. Please look around your house/neighborhood (within walking distance) and see if there is a burrow around there that you can release it into. If you can't find a burrow, but there is any undeveloped property around, let him go during the morning or early evening and he will hopefully find a burrow or dig a new one. If neither of those scenarios is possible, write me back.
Thanks, Becky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi Tad,
Please contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ( and report the colony to them.
Thank you, Becky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you email me some pictures, please?

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

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

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

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

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

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



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