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

Gopher Tortoise -- "Ask an Expert"
2019

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From: john, Subject: How many holes will a Gopher Tortoise have to its borrow?, Date: December 29, 2019
Sanford, FL, John

If a burrow is being actively used by a tortoise, there will only be one way in and out. Sometimes, if other animals such as small mammals or snakes start using a burrow, they will dig an "escape route" toward the back of the burrow. That is typically a small hole that goes straight up and down, not wide and slanted like the entrance/exit the tortoise originally dug.
      Feel free to write back if you have other questions.
            Becky


From: Nancy, Subject: Baby turtle {found}, Date: December 26, 2019
Sent from my iPhone we found a baby Turtle the size of a quarter in our garage it's a gopher turtle I don't want him to die what should I do with him

Look around outside and see if you can find a burrow to put it in. Look online for pictures if you aren't familiar with what a gopher tortoise burrow looks like. If you don't see anything suitable, I would take it to a local wildlife rehabilitator. If you need help finding one, send me your state and county location. Also, send me a couple of pictures of it, if you don't mind.
      Thanks,       Becky


From: Phil, Subject: What happens when a cow caves in the gopher tortoise burrow entrance? Mostly they are near trees or other thick vegetation but not always, Date: November 25, 2019

      As long as the tortoise didn't get injured by being stepped on, it will dig out. They are bulldozers.
            Becky


From: Bob, Date: November 23, 2019, Subject: Mature Gopher Turtle needs relocation due to land clearing
Hello:
I work in Lake Mary Florida on International Parkway near SR 46. They recently have cleared many acres of land for development right next to the FOT office on International Parkway. Going to lunch a week ago I noticed a large (~18 inches) gopher turtle grazing on grass next to the sidewalk next to the road. I was afraid he get hit by the heavy traffic on International Parkway so I stopped and picked him up and put him off the road in the nearby brush. It is an area of brush that is about 20 foot strip left. That is only what is left with the active clearing of the acres of land. I saw its burrow and left him there, a couple times a week I been leaving collard greens and some fruits for him to feed.
I been reading that he should be moved only in the warmer months so I am hoping he will survive long enough so I could move him to a great location at the Environmental Center in Sanford. I seen many gopher turtles living happily in that protected wildlife area.
I am asking what can be done to help him now, he has been pushed so close to the road and I dont want to see him get killed.
Sincerely, Bob

Bob,
      Please contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (https://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/ne/) and tell them about the tortoise. Please let me know if you don't get a response.
      Thanks,       Becky


From: Sam, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Burrow Maintenance, Date: November 18, 2019
Maintaining vegitation Good day,
The attached picture depicts what the area surrounding our gopher tortoise burrow looks like. Some in our community believe this overgrowth hinders the action of the tortoise and would like to bring it down to normal grass level (5" ­ 6"). Others believe it should be allowed to grow wild.
Please advise us as to the correct way to maintain this area. This location is in Charlotte County, Florida.
Thank you.
Regards,       Sam

Hi Sam,
      You have choices. Tortoises eat vegetation that they can reach. If you mow around the burrow (not crushing it), that will provide food. If you decide to let the area "grow wild", the food will eventually grow too tall, the tortoise will have to go further to find food, and might eventually get run over or dig a burrow elsewhere.
            Becky


From: Roman, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Size / Age Inquiry, Date: November 8, 2019
How old are gopher turtles 2.5 inches in length from head to tail?
Best Regards,       Roman

Size depends on lots of things: latitude, habitat, resource availability to name a few. It is safe to say that a gopher tortoise that small either hatched this season or might be a year old.
            Becky


From: Curt, Subject: tortise remveal, Date: November 5, 2019
Dear Becky,
 I have more than two on property in burrowes and would love to have some one come get them - what should i do

Where is the property (state and county)?
      Why do you want to have them removed?
            Becky
 


From: Paula, Subject: How many gophers possible, Date: November 3, 2019
I want to purchase a 1/2 acre lot to build a home.  Seller says I must remove all gopher turtles o it.  How many would be possible on that size lot?

I really can't estimate how many tortoises would be there because so many extenuating factors can influence that. The best thing to do would be hire someone to do a burrow survey. If you tell me the county and state where the property is located, I can send you in the right direction.
            Becky


From: Larry, Subject: Limestone Dust and Limestone Polluted Stormwater, Date: October 19, 2019
Does limestone polluted storm water flow to a creek and limestone dust from dirt roads cause problems for Gopher Tortoises? I live in south Alabama where limestone is not a native material and where crushed limestone was hauled in for our road surface.

Gopher tortoises don't typically drink water from a creek or other running water source; they get the water they need from the plants they eat. I really don't know if inhaling limestone dust is harmful, but likely no more than any other kind of dirt road dust. One issue that they might have is ingesting it if they eat plants that are covered in the dust.
            Becky


From: George, Subject: Gophers tortoise, Date: October 14, 2019
Afternoon Becky I live in Nw Cape Coral fl and we have a large population of tortoises and most have been marked but have been neglected or destroyed by large mowers and people touching or moving them. Who would  be able to come out and survey the area surrounding my neighborhood for more and I've noticed a large amount of babies been crawling thru my yard. They must be protect to insure no more harm or damage to them and their burrows
thank you

Hi,
Contact the Gopher Tortoise Council (http://gophertortoisecouncil.org/). They may be able to suggest someone in your area that would be competent and willing to do a survey. Otherwise, I would contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (https://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/sw/) and ask them for suggestions.
      Feel free to write me back if neither of those options works out or if you have more questions.
            Becky


Probably an African Spurred Trotoise. From: Lynne, Subject: Diet, Date: October 12, 2019
A gopher Tortoise has shown up in our yard and I would like to know what I can do to ensure it gets the proper diet... plants I can make available etc.
I've been giving it different types of lettuce but since this isn't a natural diet I would appreciate suggestions to make sure it remains healthy.

Based on one picture, I am pretty sure that it's not a gopher tortoise, but an African spurred tortoise. Do you still have it? Please write me back.
      Thanks,       Becky


How to protect? From: Jennifer, Subject: Need guidance on protecting our local tortoises from development, Date: October 11, 2019
Hello,
I'm located in Tarpon Springs, FL. Our property is adjacent to a large residential parcel of land that is now the habitat of many Gopher tortoises, not to mention the foraging and roosting grounds of a nesting bald eagle family.
The owners of the property are now applying to the city for a variance to develop the property into a 50 home neighborhood. Tall canopy trees have been marked for removal, and ground has been marked to excavate, right where the Gopher tortoise population is. The variance has not been officially approved yet, but I'm trying to do everything I can to get someone to consider the protection of their rapidly shrinking habitat. No one I call seems to think it matters.
Just today, this little 3" guy (see pictures) scrambled onto our property, while the town was drilling to check septic situations just feet away from his nest.
If there is anybody that you know of whom I might contact, I'd appreciate any assistance you can provide.
Thank you much,
Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,
      Contact your regional office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (https://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/sw/). Have the address of the parcel and any details you know ready to give them. They should be able to tell you if the developers/owners have permits to develop or not. If there are no permits, FWC should send someone out to investigate.
      Keep me posted, please.       Becky


African spurred tortoise From: Bill, Subject: Is this a gopher tortoise ? All the ones in our neighborhood are dark green with smooth legs., Date: October 10, 2019

No, it's an African spurred tortoise, an exotic species that is the second largest in the world (right after Galapagos tortoises). It is a young one and they can get as large as 200 lbs. Below are a couple of links with information.
      Where did you find this? It may be an escaped pet or someone may have decided it was too much to keep and let it go. Unless you live in south Florida, it will likely be too cold this winter for it to survive on its own. If you can't find the owner and don't want to keep it yourself (I would research that carefully and think about it before committing), try to find someone that is knowledgeable and will do a good job with it.       If you need help with that, please let me know (include the state and city where you are located).
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_spurred_tortoise
      http://animalia.bio/african-spurred-tortoise
      Thanks,       Becky


From: Ed, Subject: I put a gopher tortoise over a fence, Date: October 6, 2019
I moved tortoise over a fence it was up against 1 hr later it hadn't moved. I would put it's front legs out but not back legs . Could it be hurt ?

If this is still an issue, please write me back.
      Thank you,       Becky


From: Nancy, Subject: Amelia island in {ocean}, Date: October 4, 2019
I have seen the same gopher tortoise go into the ocean several times now. He seems healthy.
But when people stop he will try to get away and go too deep. I've rescued him once as he was getting swept away and put him back where he came out of dune. Only to see him go back later.
Problem is even with signs people are always trying to put them in the water and I'm afraid he's going to downed by some helpful tourist.
Nancy

Hi,
Every summer, I get reports and pictures of tortoises on the beach and swimming in the ocean. It doesn't make sense to me because they aren't supposed to be good swimmers and I also wonder if they don't get swept far away from their typical home range. However, the tortoises seem quite insistent that in the water is where they want to be. My suggestion is to let them be and ask others to do the same.
      Thanks,       Becky


From: julia, Subject: I have a 10" long gopher tortoise in my back yard, Date: October 2, 2019
Hello,
There is an approximately 10" long gopher tortoise in my back yard! It bothers nobody, I saw it this morning munching on some leaves.
What do I do? Just let it be? Or it needs to go to a sanctuary?
Thank you,
Julia, Lake Worth Beach

Does it have a burrow in your yard or does it leave in the evening?
      Can you send me some pictures?
      Thanks,       Becky


From: Casey, Subject: Help {burrow under house : puppy}, Date: September 30, 2019
I have a Gopher Tortoise and it's borrowed under my house. I have a puppy and I'm disabled. I know they're protected so I was hoping to reach out to an organization that would remove it and transfer it to a safe location. I don't know if there's a charge for such a service but I live on disability and can't afford to. Please help me. Thank you.  

Relocating a tortoise requires a permit, and it is doubtful that you would be able to get one just because the tortoise has burrowed under your house. The relocation has to be done by an authorized gopher tortoise agent and would likely be expensive. I don't know if you could find someone to do it for free.
      Is there really any reason to remove the tortoise? A burrow is only as wide as the tortoise that dug it, and the burrow goes in at about a 45 degree angle so they get deep pretty fast. It is not going to hurt your house. I suggest you just let it be, teach your pup to leave it alone, and enjoy watching it.
      Feel free to write back if you have other concerns or questions.
            Becky


From: Joe, Subject: Gopher turtle {under driveway}, Date: September 27, 2019
I have a baby living under my drive way. How can I remove him to go to a larger hole next to my yard?

First of all, it is illegal to move a tortoise without a permit. Besides that, even if you did move it, the chances of it staying where you put it are very slim and it would probably try to go back to the original burrow. When the baby outgrows the driveway burrow, it will dig another bigger one. That may or may not be near the first one. Why do you want to move it?
            Becky


From: Alex, Date: September 20, 2019, Subject: Gopher shell damage?
My dog got a hold of a large one the other day and perled a belly plate off to a new layer. Very thin. Like a scale. Will it survive. Thanks for your help

Gopher tortoises have a thin layer of scale-like material over their shell called scutes. If a scute peeled off and there was not a puncture into the body cavity, the tortoise should be fine. Please try to keep your dog away from the wildlife.
      Thanks,       Becky


From: lance, Subject: too many gopher tortoises, Date: September 24, 2019
Hello, I live on a acre in west Melbourne and have lived along 4 adult gopher tortoises. I leave them alone and enjoy watching them graze in the yard. My question is they just had another batch of babies and now I have 4 babies on my property. We are isolated from any large stretches of forest so I am wondering if the fwc would take some of these babies and relocate them? I want the adults to stay but if the babies do not disperse that will be 8 tortoises in a small area. I am worried about inbreeding. What should I do?

I wouldn't do anything. It is very unlikely that all, if any, of the babies will live. Research shows that most hatchlings are taken by predators before they reach 1 year old. Even if one or more live, they population will regulate itself so that the number of tortoises will eventually match the amount of resources available.
      Besides, I don't think the FL Wildlife Commission would issue a relocation permit. They don't do relocations and you would have to hire an authorized gopher tortoise agent, which would be expensive. I suggest you just enjoy the tortoies while you can.
            Becky


From: Robin, Subject: {bite force}, Date: September 19, 2019
What is the bite force of a gopher tortoise that's about 15 pounds?

Even a very large gopher tortoise only weighs 10 lbs., and they don't typically bite. If you have a tortoise that large and is biting, you have something other than a gopher tortoise. Send me some pictures and I will try to help i.d. it.
            Becky


From: Beck43, Subject: found swimming in the intercoastal, Date: September 8, 2019
Hi,
African spurred tortoise My husband and I were out on the boat yesterday and on our way back to the marina we spotted something dark bobbing up in down in the water. Since we normally find pollution (usually plastic bags) in the water or at a local island we frequent, (Three Rooker Island) we thought nothing of it. As we got closer we realized it wasn't garbage but something much more peculiar. It was a turtle.
Actually, I think it was a Gopher Tortoise. My husband thought we should leave him or her alone ( I think it was a he), but he was in the middle of the intercostal and it looked like he was struggling to keep his head above water. I couldn't reach him from inside of the boat so I hopped in the water and grabbed him. My first question is can Gopher Tortoises swim? I didn't think they normally did. If left alone, would he have drowned? Was Honeymoon Island a good place to take him? I apologize for not having a picture of him but this is what he looked like.
Beck43

Hi,
      I don't really know what to tell you. The picture you sent is an African spurred tortoise, which is an exotic species that often turns up in Florida because people release them or they escape from their owners. They look very much like gopher tortoises, but get much, much larger. Gopher tortoises are not supposed to be able to swim long distances, but we do see them in nearshore waters from the beach. Whether or not Honeymoon Island was a good release site depends on the food supply there; if there's not enough food, he'll likely just go for another swim. If this ever happens again (which is doubtful!), I suggest you bring the tortoise back and take it to a wildlife hospital or rehabilitator.
      Thanks for caring!       Becky


From: Catherine, Subject: tortoise eggs, Date: September 1, 2019
Are eggs laid in tortoise hole or on land covered with sand???

Gopher tortoises typically dig a hole in front of a burrow and deposit their eggs in it. Sometimes late in the reproductive season, they will just drop their eggs on top of the ground, but these eggs will not hatch.
            Becky


From: Chris, Subject: Egg laying, Date: August 28, 2019
Hello I have a gopher tortoise in my front yard my son named him diggy we feed him here and there when we see him lately a friend male has been around mating when will diggy lay eggs?

It's kind of late in the season for tortoises to be laying eggs, so it will probably be next spring. That is not to say it couldn't happen, but it's not very likely.
      Please don't feed Diggy. Gopher tortoises have very complicated dietary needs. They will gladly eat "people food", but if they fill up on that, they are not grazing and getting foods that will keep them healthy. This will be especially important once Diggy starts producing eggs.
      Feel free to write back if you have other questions.
            Becky


From: Casey, Subject: Help please, Date: August 27, 2019
Puppy safe near hole? My fiancée came across a gopher tortoise, I came out and noticed it was heading for it's burrow which is about the diameter of a basketball and there so much sand around it that it must have burrowed pretty deep. I tried to lure it out with Strawberries and Apple chunks but no deal. I'm not going to kill it and being that I'm paralyzed in one arm that it would be too tough. I've researched and found one site that states you can't even remove them from your backyard. Well I have a small puppy and either she'll fall in of the Tortoise might get her. I live on lake-front property so if I could transfer it to the other side of the fence it would have the whole lake. Enclosed is a photo of it's burrow. Please let me know the safest way to catch and transfer it. 

Hello,
      The first thing I have to tell you is that the gopher tortoise is a protected species and it is illegal to harm, kill, harass, feed, or disrupt its behavior in any way. This includes moving the tortoise to the other side of your fence. Besides, gopher tortoises are land turtles and the lake is definitely not suitable habitat for it. Also, I would not be concerned that the tortoise would hurt your puppy. Tortoises don't even have teeth and would run into its burrow or pull into its shell if the puppy attacked it. The burrows are not holes that go straight down, but they go into the ground at about a 45 degree angle. I would hope the puppy could easily run out of that if it were to decide to run into the burrow in the first place.
      All that being said, I would just let the tortoise be. If that is not acceptable to you, go to https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/gopher-tortoise/. This site has gopher tortoise information and a page on finding an authorized gopher tortoise agent that can move the tortoise legally. Another good website with information about tortoises is http://gophertortoisecouncil.org/.
After you look at the websites, feel free to write me back if you have questions or concerns.
      Becky


From: "Lynn, Subject: baby turtle id, Date: August 26, 2019
Striped mud turtle I have a student with a juvenile turtle (tortoise?) about 6-7 years old. They found it (north FL) 6 years ago and he is looking to rehome. I am concerned it might be a gopher tortoise and am seeking identification help. Thank you!   Lynn

Hi Lynn,
      It's a striped mud turtle, (Kinosternon baurii). They are not legally protected and are often kept as pets. Please ask your student not to release it back into the wild. It has been in captivity too long to be able to take care of itself. The best thing to do would be to find a good home for it with someone that can care for it properly. Do you know anyone? I can help find someone if you don't.
            Becky


From: Kirk, Subject: Baby tortoise, Date: August 26, 2019
We had a gopher tortoise lay eggs in our flower bed. We were unaware of the nest until we found a family of raccoons feasting on the nest and all butt one of the eggs destroyed.
We took in the lone good egg to keep it away from the raccoons and the egg hatched the next day.
What do we do now? We provided the baby with a bed of soil and access to water but I am sure we need to find way to release it. We have a large gopher tortoise which already had a burrow in our yard. Should we release it over by the burrow or not?
Please advise. Best, Kirk

Hi Kirk,
      Place it down into the burrow. Hatchling tortoises often use adult burrows until they are strong enough to dig their own. Please do this as soon as possible as the hatchlings typically begin walking around looking for food right away.
      Thank you!       Becky


From: Denise, Subject: Re: GT moved in, Date: August 23, 2019
I'm in Merritt Island Brevard County Florida
I am just confirming a Gopher Tortoise won't hurt our foundation,,,we don't mind him/her as long as it won't cause any structural damage

Hi,
      I have heard of and seen gopher tortoises burrowing under buildings and next to pools, air conditioning units, etc., many, many times.  I have never heard of or seen structural damage. The burrow has one way in and out, is the width of the tortoise that dug it, and the tortoise will quit digging when it hits concrete. I really don't think you need to worry.
      I am glad you are ok with it living there.
      Thanks,       Becky


From: John, Subject: nest, Date: August 21, 2019
I have a large Gopher burrow with a female living in it. She has laid 2 clutches of eggs 2 weeks apart. One clutch has hatched and so far I've seen 4 little ones scampering about my yard.Do the require any special care? I need to move them across the street or leave them near the mothers burrow. I fear that they maybe killed when I mow the yard since its 2 acres and they hide in the tall grass very well.
Thanks, John.

Hi John,
      Please don't move them. It's illegal to do that, but more importantly, it may not be good for the tortoises. The female picked that spot to lay her eggs because the resources were right for the hatchlings. The best thing to do is leave them alone. Mowing is good because it brings the grass down to a level that they can reach, but I understand your concern. All I can say about the mowing is be as careful as you can.
            Becky


From: barbara, Subject: Hole at the base of my house, Date: August 19, 2019
I found a hole, recently dug, partly under my paver front porch and up against my house. It has been dug down to the foundation. It's not that deep. Maybe a foot up to 2 feet. I'm not sure if it's a gopher or an armadillo hole. Their both prevalent out here. I don't have any gopher burrows on my property that I'm aware of. I do have a dog that will harm them if they're in the back yard. Now my question is,how do I get them away from so close to my house? Now what I did was fill a bucket of hot water with ammonia in it and poured it down the hole then waited to see if anything would come out. Nothing came out. So that's when I took the wooden end of an edger and stuck it down the hole and that's when I discovered how shallow the hole was. So I filled it in. Now what if it happens again. And I know it will. It's happened many times around my AC. And those times it was an armadillo. I've had gophers out here before but their burrows were always at the base of a palmetto. Which is better than the base of my house. What would you have done? Can you tell which animal dug this hole ? Is one hole different from the other? Thanks for listening,Barbara

Dear Barbara,
      The first thing you need to know is that gopher tortoises are federally protected as a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to do anything to kill, harm, harass, or interfere with them; this protection includes burrows. Pouring hot water and ammonia into a burrow to see what comes out would certainly be considered harassment. Also, if your dog does anything to a tortoise, you are responsible.
      That being said, it is difficult to tell the difference between an armadillo burrow and a tortoise burrow and either animal will put a burrow next to your house. Neither one of them is going to damage the foundation. If the hole really bothers you, you can hire an authorized gopher tortoise agent to come inspect the burrow and relocate the tortoise if that's what is in there.
      You asked what I would do. I wouldn't do anything.
            Becky


From: Michele, Subject: house for sale with GT entrance, Date: August 20, 2019
I have a house for sale with a GT entrance right up to the east wall of the house. I have seen two GT go into the entrance. My fear is that when I sell the house, the owner will fill in the hole as others have told me they have done. I plan on putting up a sign and leaving educational material but is that the best I can do?
Thanks, Michele

Hi Michele,
      Where is the house located (county and state)?
            Becky


From: tim, Subject: Gopher turtles / Sunrise cove, Date: August 7, 2019

Gopher tortoise habitat at Sunrise Cove I'm writing about my concern for the destruction of wildlife habitat in our area. A developer in Ormond Beach has scraped an entire block of what little natural habitat that remains in this area. He may leave one tree per lot but basically nothing remains except sod, more fertilizer and poison in his wake. The use of water alone is enough for concern in his cookie cutter development. He doesn't seem to care as he doesn't live in the area.

Yesterday I saw a gopher turtle. The week before we had a family of armadillos. There are many Blue Jays, possible Scrub Jays in this area.

https://myfwc.com/license/wildlife/gopher-tortoise-permits/enforcement-policy/

The three lots he has listed for sale are the last remaining area for the critters to live.
Once he scrapes those .... they all will go, where?
Into our back yards! Including the rattle snakes and racoons!

I've included some recent pix and an aerial view from his ad - notice he uses the picture from BEFORE he cleared everything.

The recent aerial photo shows how much has been already lost.
Once it's gone it's gone.

Where are the Gopher Turtles going to go??

Thank you, Tim & Pam

Tim and Pam,
      I don't have much good news or ways to fix this problem. You can contact your regional office of the Florida Wildlife Commission (https://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/ne/) and ask if the developer has a gopher tortoise relocation permit. Tell them you have tortoise pictures from the area and what you have seen happening. Also have the addresses of the remaining lots ready to give them.
      You could also contact the Better Business Bureau or some other entity that could address the developers misleading advertisements. Other than that, the owner of the property has the right to do what he/she wants.
      From the aerial, it appears that the land is between the ocean and one of the estuaries. It will likely get developed until there is nothing left. I personally wouldn't want to live there; between increased frequency and intensity of storms and rising water levels (i.e., climate change), the whole place could be gone anytime.
            Becky


From: George, Subject: Gopher turtle {trapped by rain?}, Date: August 5, 2019
We have or had a gopher turtle living next to our garage it would come out around the same time every day so we could feed him after a heavy rain the burrow was partially washed in and we haven't seen it since. My question is could it be trapped underground I didn't want to dig hoping he would come out or back. Thanks

8/6/19 Responding to answer: Thanks for the info hopefully he returns

Gopher tortoises are bulldozers and if it is in the burrow, it can certainly dig itself out. When the burrow started getting wet, it may have moved out. If that happened, it may or may not come back. Keep your eyes open for new burrows in the area.
      Feel free to write back if you have anymore questions.
            Becky


From: Kent, Subject: Gopher tortoise on beach, Date: August 1, 2019
I saw a gopher tortoise on fernadina beach today and it was going into the ocean. Some people were taking it back out because there are all sorts of signs that say "don't put me in the water i can not swim". Should we leave it alone or take it back to the dune?
Thanks, Kent

Hi Kent,
      I get several calls/emails every summer about this phenomenon. Apparently, tortoises like to swim in the ocean. I don't understand how they don't end up miles from their home range, and maybe they do, but it does seem crazy. It has been suggested that they are cooling off or that the salt water kills parasites. Your guess is as good as mine! However, it is illegal for anyone to pick them up and move them unless they are in eminent danger, so it is best for them (and us) to just let them be.
            Becky


From: Jane, Subject: Fences and turtles!, Date: July 30, 2019
My neighbor is considering a brick wall as a fence between our houses. We have numerous box turtles on both properties and I would like to see their travels back and forth to continue in spite of a barrier. Could you recommend sizes of open ground spaces left in the wall to make that possible.........or.........any other suggestion that might help?
Kay, Shalimar, FL

Hi Kay,
      Leaving some holes along the bottom of the fence should work for letting them pass through. As they walk through the yard and run into the fence, they will follow it until they get to a hole. For whatever reason, turtles typically don't turn around and go back the way they came. To fit a box turtle, I would make the hole no less than 7 inches long and and 5 inches tall. That should allow even a large female to pass.
            Becky


From: Bonnie, Subject: can a developer pay to bury gopher tortoise?, Date: July 29, 2019
I know that at one time, here in Florida, developers could pay into a conservation fund to entomb a gopher tortoise. Fortunately, there is a great permitted relocation system in place. Can the developers still pay to bury? What was the fund they paid into? I'm interested in the state rule, not just county. Thanks, Bonnie, Alachua County, Florida

Hi Bonnie,
      Entombment is no longer legal unless a permit exists from prior to when the current regulations were put into place (July 2007). Certain activities are exempt from permitting requirements (agricultural, silvicultural, natural resource improvement), but their actions must comply with certain criteria to protect tortoises. Money from permits is used to buy and manage gopher tortoise habitat. Here are two helpful websites: Gopher Tortoise Council http://gophertortoisecouncil.org/ and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/gopher-tortoise/.
      Feel free to write back if you have more questions.
            Becky


Is this a gopher tortoise burrow? From: Matt, Subject: Can you help identify these pics?, Date: July 22, 2019
These were taken at 2 different homes we are thinking of buying in Flagler Beach. The first pile of sand has gotten significantly larger since first seeing it June, 2019. There is a large cement slab that would have to be removed from a hot tub very near to this fence.  The 2nd is from another property we saw today but looks like the weeds have grown over the burrow. A downspout and drain would have to be added to avoid further washout from the property, very near to this burrow. (If it is a burrow). Can we follow through with needed remodels? Does the 25 ft rule of no construction apply here? Thank you for all your help! Love these little guys for sure and don't want to upset them! Matthew and Laurie

Hi Matthew and Laurie,
      I am sorry, but I can't make a determination about burrow activity from pictures. My suggestion is to go online and find an authorized gopher tortoise agent (certified by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) to come survey the burrows. It will cost some money, but that is the only way I would feel confident about the answer.             Becky


From: Bonnie, Subject: Gopher Sitting on side of road for 12 hours not moving during night!, Date: July 17, 2019
We have several gopher turtle burrows within a mile of our home and we love to take our Granddaughter over to see them. On our way out last evening at 8pm we came across a large gopher sitting a 1/2 mile from the burrows. He was on the beginning of the bridge. He seemed fine other than he didn't look like he had been in a burrow because his shell was very clean not dusty like the ones we see. We didn't bother him. This morning my husband left for work and the turtle is still sitting in the same spot. He doesn't move at all. My husband got out and moved him off the road into the grass just a couple feet. Could he be lost or sick? I sent a message to the DNR in Georgia. Thanks for any info you can provide.
Bonnie

Hi Bonnie,
      If the tortoise is still sitting at or near the same spot and not moving much, I would suggest that you take it to a wildlife rehabilitator, especially if it is not under some kind of cover to provide shade. If you need help locating a rehab facility, write me back with your county location.
      DNR may be able to respond, and that would be good. Hopefully, you hear something back from them quickly. However, I would not wait too long.
            Becky


From: Michael, Subject: Burrowing {pet tortoise}, Date: July 17, 2019
Dear tortoise expert, I am writing you today because I am concerned. My pet tortoise has taken a liking to one of the starter burrows I created for him in the yard. See the problem is the entrance to the burrow is close to the brick wall surrounding the perimeter of my backyard. I did not think when creating hole the tortoise would be able to dig out under the wall, I thought the brick wall went deeper. Well I realized the tortoise has officially cleared the wall and is now continuing to dig past my property. I am worried he will keep digging if not cause any damages he may get lost by coming up somewhere else. See this is my concern in addition to living in Arizona which we are currently facing 110+ degree weather daily. I understand this digging is a adaptation behavior and I love watching him enter and exit his little home. I was wondering what suggestions you might have. I have been looking into creating a burrow that he won't be able to keep digging and collapse the current one. I appreciate your time looking forward to hearing from you.

Hello,
      What kind of tortoise is it?
            Becky


From: Charles, Subject: Inactive burrow and fence, Date: July 15, 2019
Hi, we live in south Titusville. In March 2015 we had a gopher tortoise move in to our yard. It was here for nearly a year then moved on. Either the same or another tortoise started to occupy the burrow in April 2018 for about six weeks, then disappeared. My next door neighbor is going to have a privacy fence installed along the property line. We have an existing chain link fence and would remove it since there would be no reason to have two fences. The burrow is 5-6 feet from the fence with the burrow going toward our house. Do you think it would be ok to remove the fence?
Thanks, Cathy

Hi Cathy,
      Would you email me some pictures of the burrow, please?
            Becky


From: Linda, Subject: Gopher tortoise permit, Date: July 10, 2019
Have a gopher turtle that has dug under my house called hotline they told me to apply for a permit called that number and I got a voice mail and it said to go on line to get a permit I can't find the correct permit please help me I want to help this turtle

FOLLOW UP EMAIL: Sorry I forgot to say Indian river county Florida 

Hi,
      The link to the gopher tortoise permitting page is https://myfwc.com/license/wildlife/gopher-tortoise-permits/. You will want to apply for a "10 or fewer" permit.
      If your motivation is to help the tortoise, the best thing to do is let it be. Gopher tortoises often burrow next to and underneath structures, probably because the dirt is already soft and structures provide added shelter. I have seen and gotten dozens of reports of this happening and have never known of the burrow causing issues to the structure. I have attached a chapter from a workbook that a friend of mine wrote that has information on making your property tortoise friendly, if you are interested in that option. It is copyrighted material, so use if for your own education only, please.
      Feel free to email me back if you have more questions or concerns.
            Becky


From: Amit, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Burrow {caved}, Date: July 10, 2019
Hello,
I had a Gopher Tortoise in my backyard and it is now gone and relocated but the burrow is still there and caved in. It has become a hazard. What can I do with the burrow? Can I fill it with dirt again? I have checked multiple times to see if the Tortoise will comeback but it has been months since the last time it was seen. Please advise
Thanks, Amit

Hi Amit,
      Can you email me some pictures?
            Becky


From: Donald, Subject: Average density of gopher Tortoise in an orange grove with wetlands in Central Florida, Date: July 2, 2019
Hello,
There is a 222 acre parcel of land near the intersedtion of Shirley Shores and East Shirley Shores in Tavares Florida. (this is near the Deer Island area)
I know there are many gopher tortoise living on the land as I see them frequently. Could you guestimate the approximate number of tortoise might be on a parcel that large? It has been an orange grove and there is considerable wetlands and a canal on the site.
Thanks much, Don

Hi Don,
      That is a loaded question, and, unfortunately, my answer has to be "it depends". Abandoned orange groves can be very good habitat for tortoises, but that is contingent on the soils underneath. If there are natural wetlands in the area, the soils may not be conducive to burrowing. The presence of ditches (no doubt put in by the citrus farmers) is also a hint that the area might naturally be wet. When tortoises are living in less than ideal conditions, they will often be along edges and in openings, so the fact that you are seeing lot of tortoises doesn't really help with a population estimate. You might be seeing all or most of them that live there unless you are traversing the entire property.
      My suggestion is that, if you want any kind of reliable population count, you get the best burrow count of the parcel that you can get, or you hire a tortoise professional to do it for you (through an environmental consulting company). Once you know the number of burrows, you can get a range of the number of tortoises by using a correction factor. A professional tortoise biologist would be able to figure that out.
      I apologize for not being able to be more specific, but I don't want to mislead you with inaccurate answers. Feel free to write back if I can attempt to provide more assistance.
            Becky


From: Jerry, Subject: Question about who to contact in Palm Bay FL about Gopher Tortoise relocation, Date: July 2, 2019
who can I contact about a Gopher Tortoise being on a vacant 1/4 acre lot in Palm Bay Fl. to establish if the lot is buildable or has a gopher tortoise located on it. (the city tells me to contact the state of Florida, I need someone local)
thanks Jerry

Hi Jerry,
      The City is partially right. You can go to the State of Florida gopher tortoise page and figure out if whoever is proposing to build on the lot has a tortoise permit. If there is a burrow/tortoise and they don't have a permit, that is a problem for them. If they do have a permit, they can still build, but will have to pay to get the tortoise relocated. Use the link below to search by the property address to see if the developer/owner has a permit.
            https://public.myfwc.com/maps/gtmapping/gtpermitmap.html
      If you want someone to come out to the property, you can contact an authorized gopher tortoise agent. Their information is also available through the same link. Search on the northeast region. Be sure to zoom into the map so you can see the different locations of agents in Brevard County.
      Write me back if you want more help.
            Becky


From: Jenny, {Subject: rain}, Date: June 30, 2019
Do wild tortoises come out in the rain and bath

Yes, gopher tortoises (and probably other species) will walk around in the rain and drink water from the puddles.
            Becky


From: Jenny, {Subject: Dog trying to eat one}, Date: June 28, 2019
So on Wednesday I found a baby tortoise due to my dog trying to eat it in my backyard I put it in my front yard and I haven't seen it since there is one hole in our front yard which I can see out of my window but I don't know where it went I check every day to see if it might come out of that hole I'm scared it got hurt it's not a newborn but it pretty big but it's still a baby and also when a tortoise eats and goes back to it's hole how long does it take to come back out and eat again and I live in Florida near dade city close to Tampa ish do tortoises have to hibernate or not I would appreciate it if you could send me an answer thank you??

This time of year, tortoises will be active most every day in the mornings before it gets too hot and late afternoons before it gets dark. It is hard to say where the tortoise might have gone. The only thing I can suggest is that you keep watch for it. If you see it, pay attention to how it walks and whether or not it is eating. If it eats and moves normally, leave it alone. If it looks hurt, please take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. I can help you find one if you can't find one on your own.
            Becky


From: Susan, Subject: Re: Can a gopher tortoise and a golden Greek tortoise co exist?, Date: June 26, 2019 at 9:02:27 PM
Research just stated no, a gofer can not be kept as a pet. A friend just found it in his yard so I will advise he has to let it be free to roam.
8:51 PM
Hi, I have a male golden Greek tortoise, seven years old. Will a gopher tortoise be able to coexist with my Golden Greek tortoise or is that not recommend it? Thank you very much, Susan

Yes, please make sure your friend releases it where he found it immediately. Thanks so much.
            Becky


Box turtle From: ken, Subject: Possible baby gopher tortoise, Date: June 26, 2019
Hi, I am visiting my Brother in Gautier, Mississippi. While sitting outside we found this little guy. My concern is if it is safe to be left alone and able to survive. I am absolutely no expert on tortoise or turtles but will want a peace of mind it will be ok or if I need to contact someone to help it.
I am attaching pictures for review.
 Thank you Allison

Hi Allison,
      It is a box turtle and it looks to be fine. Don't move it (or worry about it) unless you see blood or if it sits in the same exact spot for a couple of days.
      Write me back if you have concerns, and thanks for caring.
            Becky


From: Helena, Subject: turtle {on lot} question, Date: June 24, 2019
Hi! About year and half ago we bought 1/2 acre in Desoto, Arcadia. Due to medical setbacks, we will not build on the property till about 2 years from now. We go and cut the grass and maintain it and just not long ago friend of ours, who went with us to help, said it looks like we have a gopher living there. It wasn't there when we bought the lot. At least there wasn't any holes when we first started cutting the grass.
Unfortunately, he/she is right in the middle of the lot. I wouldn't care if he/she stays but there is no way I could get the house situated so there will be 25 feet space. I could manage 6-8 feet.
Is there any chance that he/she might even move away in 2 years? Or worse, can it be whole lot more of them in 2 years?
In rainy season, there is little standing water and the lot will need some fill before building.
Wonder if the extra water is beneficial to them. If I fill it, would they move out? Is it illegal?
I don't want to harm him/her and I worry that relocating will be stressful for it so I'd rather give him some "nudge" and encouragement to get out on its own.
Thank you for your wisdom!
Helena

Hi Helena,
      My suggestion is that you wait to do anything until you are closer to developing the property. Once you are about a year out, reassess and make a decision. If the tortoise (or tortoises) is still there, stop mowing. The short grass is making your land more suitable because you are providing an easy food source. If the habitat is not suitable it (they) will move on. That, of course, is assuming there is land nearby for it to occupy and feed. If there isn't any space left nearby, it may not leave. In that case, you will have to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and go through the relocation process.
      Feel free to write back if you have other questions or concerns, and thanks for caring.
            Becky


From: Cameron, Subject: {On Beach}, Date: June 23, 2019
I live in St Augustine and yesterday while at the beach I noticed a tortoise coming on land from the water..at first I thought it was a sea turtle because I couldnt see his claws. After a short while of people milling around watching him as he got upset and attempted to get away from the crowd by walking parallel to the water line a man picked him up and carried him far into the dunes. Gosh darn an hour later he ha came walking straight back to the ocean. He was steady in pace but not as quick as I have seen them go. Question: Why the heck would a gopher tortoise walk from the dunes to a crowded beach and towards sea water?? I have never before seen this type of behavior...so you know it was very hot yesterday..perhaps he was cooling off? Even still very strange...agree?
Thanks, Cameron

Hi Cameron,
      I get several calls/emails every summer about this phenomenon. Apparently, tortoises like to swim in the ocean. I don't understand how they don't end up miles from their home range, and maybe they do, but it does seem crazy. It has been suggested that they are cooling off or that the salt water kills parasites. Your guess is as good as mine! However, it is illegal for anyone to pick them up and move them unless they are in eminent danger, so it is best for them (and us) to just let them be.
      Thanks,       Becky


Help with an out-of-range baby gopher tortoise. From: Jessica, Subject: Help please {Out of Range}, Date: June 20, 2019
My friend has a gopher tortoise (or so we think it's a gopher Tortoise) that is very young. She progressively stopped eating and drinking water on her own and all around her shell is very soft and she barely walks. We live in North Carolina and she has a heat lamp that stays on 24/7. I would really appreciate your help.

It's a gopher tortoise and North Carolina is outside of its natural range.
      Someone probably picked it up while they were traveling in the southeast U.S. and decided to turn it loose in North Carolina. It will not survive there. Please take it to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as you can. If you need help finding a place, send me your county location.
      Thanks,       Becky


From: Dale, Subject: What kind of tortoise?, Date: June 18, 2019
It is a Gopher Tortoise? Found him yesterday up against the inside of my fence. Never had a tortoise in the yard before. Assuming he crawled under the fence in the back where there are gaps made by bunnies. Trying to determine what he is.

Hi,
      It's a gopher tortoise. You are right in that it is probably coming into your yard in gaps under the fence. I have attached a couple of links to webpages on gopher tortoises. Please look at a range map; if you live outside of that range, please write me back.
            https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/gopher-tortoise/
            http://gophertortoisecouncil.org/
      Thanks, Becky


From: Suzanne, Subject: Dogs and tortoise, Date: June 17, 2019
Hi, I think one of my dogs, or my neighbors dogs killed a small tortoise that was on our property. My dog is fenced in, so I think it was theirs.
My husband noticed that part of the shell was not around. Could a dog get sick and/or die from partially eating a tortoise? There is another bigger one on our property, what can we do to make sure nothing happens to this one.
Thanks, Suzanne

Hi Suzanne,
      It is difficult for a dog (unless it's a really big and strong dog) to eat a tortoise once the shell gets hard at about five years old. I suppose part of a shell could get lodged in a dog's throat, but I have never heard of that happening. Lots of things could have taken a partially eaten shell, such as birds, raccoons, cats, etc.
      As far as the other tortoise goes, if it is an adult, it is doubtful that a dog could eat it. However, if it uses your property, please try to train your dog to leave the tortoise alone. Also, ask your neighbors to keep their dog out of your yard. Please feel free to write me back if you have other questions or need to talk about this some more.
      Thanks,       Becky


From: CarrieSubject: Gopher tortoises at beach, Date: June 11, 2019
I live near Fernandina Beach in Nassau county Florida. We have gopher tortoises pretty much everywhere that's wooded but they also are plentiful in the dunes at the beach. While walking at the beach I often find them in or near the surf. I realize that they are indeed land animals requiring little water, getting much of what they need through vegetation and precipitation. But if or when they do require a drink it would undoubtedly be from a source of fresh water. I have been told that visitors and uneducated locals are the culprit seeing the animals on the sand and thinking they need to be in the water. Today while at the beach I was moving a gopher away from the surf when this little lifeguard approached me telling me not up bother the turtle. I replied that it doesn't belong in the ocean and she said they go to the water to cool off.... I've never heard this before... it makes no sense to me. Most gopher tortoises don't live near the beach and wouldn't have the luxury of this practice. I know they can certainly drown. Being tossed about in the surf seems rather dangerous for them.
So- is this accurate info?
If so, I rant move another one.
Thanks, Carrie

Hi Carrie,
      The dunes along the beach are typically good habitat for gopher tortoises if the area is not highly developed or disturbed. That is where our largest tortoise populations are here on Kennedy Space Center. I have occasionally seen and often here about tortoises going for a swim in the ocean. It may very well be to cool off because it is always in the summer. Other tortoise biologists have said that it may help the tortoises get rid of external parasites, which are more plentiful in the summer. I don't think anyone knows for sure. The thing that amazes me is that they could easily get pushed up or down the coast quite a distance and have a long way to walk to get back home. However, gopher tortoises (and turtles in general) have been around a really long time and we just have to trust that they know what they're doing!
      Thanks,       Becky


From: Ariana, Subject: Permits, Date: June 6, 2019
I have seen on your website that you said it was possible to get a permit to keep a gopher turtle in captivity. I can not find information on that anywhere. So I was wondering if you could provide me any information on possibly getting one so that I can be the proud owner of one of these adorable little tortoises.
Thank You

      If I ever said that an individual could get a permit to keep a gopher tortoise, I misspoke. Right now, organizations (parks, nature centers, etc.) can apply for gopher tortoise permits, but not individuals.
      Someday, the laws may change and it will be possible; individuals that live in the desert tortoise's range (southwest U.S.) can get a permit to keep a desert tortoise.
            Becky


From: Jeanne, Subject: Tortoise, will a skunk kill a gopher if it lives in the same hole. lr, Date: June 6, 2019
      A skunk might eat a hatchling gopher tortoise, but most I don't think it would try to eat an adult.
            Becky

From: Bonnie, Subject: Two burrows on my property, Date: June 1, 2019

I had a male gopher turtle move into the middle of my back yard this year, but it looks like he has moved down front now. Is it possible for a gopher turtle to have two burrows on the same property?
I live in central Florida on an acre and a half of land. I love that the turtles are making their home here.
      Thanks,       Bonnie

Hi Bonnie,
      Tortoises typically dig multiple burrows in their home ranges. When we radiotracked tortoises on Kennedy Space Center, males averaged 15 burrows each and females averaged 9. Tortoises in "suburbia" may not have as many, but it wouldn't surprise me it your tortoise has several.
      I am really glad you are happy about having a tortoise on your place! Thank you.
            Becky


From: Tammy, Subject: Gopher turtle, Date: May 29, 2019

Hi again its been awhile since my last question...i have two this time i accidently ran over herman while i was cutting grass he is small enough that i didnt see him in time to veer outta the way and my riding mower front wheel ran him over .i picked him up to check him out he appeared to be ok after a few minutes he stuck his head out and ran back into his burrow.....i was wanting to know if they r well protected like thst by thier shell cause i thought for sure i killed him and also with this heat here in Florida can he get enough water when my grass and weeds in my yard r dying. Im trying to keep it watered some and i also spray water over the plant his burrow is under so it can drip own in front of his burrow.....if i leave some blue berries or strawberries and lettuce out do u think he would eat it....

Hi,
      What is herman?
            Becky


From: Alex, Subject: Gopher tortoises under shed, Date: May 28, 2019

We have a shed that is functioning as my mom's studio. At least two gopher tortoises are now living under it, and the hole is massive. The shed is supported by concrete blocks and secured with hurricane tie downs, no cement foundation.
We like having them around, but are concerned by the size of the hole. Is there any chance of them undermining the shed to the point where it may collapse and injure them? Should we have them relocated?
Thank you! — Alexandra 

Hi Alexandra,
      I get lots of inquiries about tortoise burrows undermining foundations or causing structural issues. In 30 years, I have never heard of or seen that happen. The burrows are typically 15 ­ 20 feet long and go in at a 45o angle, so they get deep fast. The tunnel is only as wide as the tortoise (or tortoises) that is using it and there is no second entrance/exit. I would be more concerned about your mom or someone else stepping into the opening of the burrow and getting hurt. If that is a possibility, you may want to mark the hole with a pin flag or two, but don't put anything directly in front of it.
      I hope this is helpful. If you have other questions or concerns, write me back. Pictures of the situation might also be useful.
            Becky


From: Geri, Subject: Fence Replacement, Date: May 22, 2019

I want to replace a old wire and wood fence with a vinyl privacy fence. There is a tortoise burrow on the lot line and right next to one of the old wood fence posts. What do I need to do?
Thanks Geri

      What state and county are you in?
            Becky


From: jerry, Subject: finding Individuals who can check a lot in Palm Bay Florida, Date: May 17, 2019

How does someone go about find someone to remove or relocate a Gopher (or Gophers) on a ¼ acre lot in Palm Bay FL.
Thanks, Jerry

Jerry,
      I forwarded your email to a friend of mine that does this kind of work. You should be hearing from him soon.
            Becky


From: Corey, Subject: Gopher Tortoise Preferred Plants, Date: May 11, 2019

Hi Becky!
I just bought a house in Alachua County and found a gopher tortoise burrow on the property, I've seen him a few times out and about which is always exciting! I was wondering what kind of plants I could put in the area and how close to the burrows (there's several around the property) to help make sure he/she is getting everything needed. Also, I do have some outdoor cats that I rescued. They don't bother it and after the first couple weeks they've stopped hanging around the burrow but would this scare the GT? I don't want to stress him out or him to feel like he can't come out. I don't think that's happening but just want to put that out there as well for full disclosure to make sure he has a good environment. I love your page and appreciate you helping out so many of us with our questions!
Thank You, Corey

Hi Corey,
      That's great that you have tortoises on your property! I have attached a chapter from a workbook written by a friend of mine that you should find helpful. It is copyrighted material, so use it for your own education only, please. I don't believe it matters how far or close to a burrow you plant. The tortoises will walk to get to food they want, and if it's too far from their burrow, they'll dig another burrow closer.
      Regarding the cats: Cats running around loose outside can cause lots of problems for wildlife. I don't think the adult tortoises will care unless the cats consistently mess with them. However, the cats would likely eat or harass to death any tortoise hatchlings that might be produced. If you have any options besides letting the cats roam free, I would consider them.
            Thanks, Becky


From: Eleen, Subject: Gopher Turtle, Date: May 10, 2019

I live in Tioga County, PA and I found a turtle. Took it home, did research and found it is a protected, endangered species. What do I do with him?

      Take it back to where you got it as soon as possible and let it go, please.


From: Terry, Subject: Small gopher turtles coming out of hibernation, Date: April 25, 2019

I have noticed the larger gopher turtles have all come out of hibernation, however the smaller ones haven't. None of the holes they are in were disturbed during the winter months , my question is , when will they come out ? Should I help them by perhaps lightly opening up the holes?
I live in Northeast Florida about 7 miles from the Georgia state line. I live on many acres of land where we grow pine timber. Your site is a wealth of wonderful information and I have enjoyed reading the many questions and answers!
Thank you for what you do!
Sincerely , Terry

Hi Terry,
      If you are seeing small burrows that are not active, it is quite likely that the young tortoises are not inside. They sometimes dig their own burrows and use them, but they often use adult burrows and other cover objects on the ground. And they will move between the den sites depending on air and ground temperatures and food sources.
      Please do not open the holes or mess with them in any way. First of all, it is illegal to do that, but there are really important biological reasons as well. Even if a burrow is not currently being used, it is very possible that someone will come back to it eventually. If it is degraded (opened up), they might not use it again. Also, your scent and signs of disturbance could attract predators such as dogs, cats, pigs, coyotes, raccoons, or crows. That could be really bad if there is a tortoise inside.
      Thank you for the kind words about the website. I really enjoy hearing and responding to people's questions, and we have an amazing webmaster that makes it easy for me.
      Feel free to write back if you have other questions.
            Thanks, Becky


From: Michael, Subject: Gopher tortoise under house, Date: April 25, 2019

Hello,
Gopher tortoises have burrowed under the house per attached picture. What can we do?
Thanks, Mike

Hi Mike,
      If you are worried about the tortoise doing damage, I don't it will cause a problem. The burrow will only be as wide as the tortoise that digs it, will go down at a 45 degree angle (so it will get deep quickly), and will usually be 10 to 15 ft long. Lots of people contact me about tortoises burrowing next to structures and I have never heard of or seen anything bad happen. So, my suggestion is don't do anything. However, if you don't want to go that route, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission gopher tortoise page and apply for a relocation permit (https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/gopher-tortoise/).       Feel free to write back if you have more questions or concerns.
            Becky


From: chaneyrich, Subject: Gopher tortoise (where relocated}, Date: April 24, 2019

When they relocate a Gopher Tortoise, where do they take them?

      That depends on where the tortoise is from. In Florida, there are several permitted recipient sites (https://myfwc.com/license/wildlife/gopher-tortoise-permits/recipient-site/). There are also provisions in Florida that allow on-site relocation. Other states in the gopher tortoise's range have different regulations and relocation options. Look at the states' wildlife agency websites for more information.
            Becky


From: Richard, Subject: {Heavy vegitation}, Date: April 19, 2019

Will Gopher Tortoises inhabit a heavily over grown lot that is heavy with vegetation?

Hi,
      Unfortunately, I can't give you a "yes" or "no" answer to your question. It depends. Typically, overgrown vegetation is not suitable habitat because tortoises need open space to burrow and low-growing vegetation to eat. However, if the surrounding habitat is either developed or also overgrown, there could easily be tortoises living in less-than-suitable conditions. Also, there could be old tortoises living on a lot that used to be good and isn't anymore, but they are interested in moving.
            If you need to know whether or not tortoises are present in a specific area, you will need to get a survey done. If you are located in Florida, go to https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/gopher-tortoise/ for more information. In other states, contact your state wildlife agency.
      Feel free to write back if you have other questions.
            Becky


From: Chloe, Subject: Baby tortoise, Date: April 12, 2019

I live in north central Florida and I found a baby tortoise on my back deck. The deck is approximately 2 feet off the ground so I can only imagine something dropped him there. I know he won't be able to get off the deck without a fall, but I also don't want to pick him up and disorient him. What should I do?!

      If you still have the tortoise, I would take him to a local wildlife rehabilitator. If you need help finding one in your area, send me your county location.
            Becky


From: shantivargas.07, Subject: Hey I got a question how old do you need to be to get a permit for a tortoise, Date: April 7, 2019

Please help

      No one has ever asked me this before! I don't know the answer, but imagine that you must be 21 years old (classified as an adult). If you live in Florida, I suggest you visit https://myfwc.com/license/wildlife/gopher-tortoise-permits/ and contact your regional office. If you don't live in Florida, contact your state's wildlife commission.
      Feel free to write back if you have more questions.
      Becky


From: Pamela, Subject: Gopher Tortoise under home, Date: April 2, 2019

Hi,
A woman has asked the question of how to remove a Gopher Tortoise that has taken up residence under her home and apparently is damaging the infrastructure underneath there. I'm wondering if you might have an answer for her? Thanks
Regards, Pam

Hi Pam,
      I have seen and been told many times about gopher tortoises digging next to houses, other buildings, air conditioning units, swimming pools, etc. They often put their burrows where the soil has already been disturbed, probably because the digging is easier. However, I have never seen or heard that a tortoise has damaged a structure. The burrows are only as wide as the tortoise that dug it, may typically be 15 - 20 feet long, and are dug at about a 45 degree angle so they get deep pretty quickly. Once the tortoise hits concrete, it will either stop or turn the burrow's path.
      Please tell the woman that she really doesn't need to worry about the tortoise. If she is seeing structural damage, something else may be happening to cause it. However, if she insists on trying to get the tortoise moved, she can apply on-line for a relocation permit at https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/gopher-tortoise/.
      Feel free to write back if you have questions or need more information.
            Becky


From: Barbara, Subject: Eggs, Date: April 2, 2019

A gopher turtle is laying eggs in my yard and already the crows are congregating. Do I intervene?

      Is she burying them in a hole or laying them on top of the ground? Becky


From: Sharon, Subject: Turtle return, Date: March 28, 2019

Is there any reason why a tortoise turtle continues to return to my home? I have returned back in the woods 2 times now. What does this mean. I know it is the same one because it has pink on its back.
Thank you

      Can you please email me some pictures? If I know for sure what kind of turtle it is, I may be able to help you figure out why it wants to be at your house so much.
            Thanks, Becky


From: Janine, Subject: Gopher Tortoise and Foundation Issues, Date: March 25, 2019

  Becky,
We have spotted several burrows on the property (.25 acres) of a house we want to buy. We have even seen the tortoise twice in the last week! There has been recent foundation damage and repair. We were told today that the damage was caused by gopher tortoises. I find that contrary to everything I have read on your site: your stating that you have never heard of or seen a solid, sturdy structure compromised by a burrow and learning how many people welcome and love the presence of these cool animals. We feel the same way! With all we have learned and read today, we feel strongly that this damage was not caused by the burrowing. If we are being told the truth, wouldn't there have been a permit on the work?? I checked the Florida Fish & Wildlife Permit Map and can't find one. What is your opinion of this type of damage being done by Gopher Tortoises? There were huge voids under the slab--none were tunnel-shaped--and the slab had to be jacked up a bit (a few inches?) on one end of house and injected with a substrate for support and stability.
Thanks in advance for your insight!
Janine

Hi Janine,
      As you know, I have never seen or heard of damage being caused to a structure from a gopher tortoise burrow. If you are finding significant open areas under the house, I would definitely proceed with caution. If you can find out who did the previous work on the foundation, they may be able to give you an unbiased opinion on its stability.
      Please feel free to write back if you have more questions.
            Becky


From: Renay Kasberg, Subject: Gopher tortoise breaking the bottom of fencing in several areas, Date: March 10, 2019
Are gopher turtles strong enough to break the bottom portions of the fence planking up 12 inches high on the fence? They have burrowed under the same area of the fence also. I own a rental home in Florida. The tenant has claimed that gopher turtles have busted/broken out portions of the bottom of the planking fencing up as far as 10-12 inches. She has two 25 lb. dogs which I believe have broken the fence because they were trying to get at the turtles burrow. I need a professionals opinion on the turtles strength to break off wood fencing. Thank you.

      Please understand that what I am going to tell you is my opinion only and that without looking at the situation, it is very difficult to say what is actually happening. That being said, here is what I think:
      Gopher tortoises do not typically break through fencing; they dig under. Besides that, their shells are only 5 or 6 inches high, not 12. My suspicion is that your suspicion is correct.
            Becky


From: Renay, Subject: Gopher tortoise breaking the bottom of fencing in several areas, Date: March 10, 2019

Are gopher turtles strong enough to break the bottom portions of the fence planking up 12 inches high on the fence? They have burrowed under the same area of the fence also. I own a rental home in Florida. The tenant has claimed that gopher turtles have busted/broken out portions of the bottom of the planking fencing up as far as 10-12 inches. She has two 25 lb. dogs which I believe have broken the fence because they were trying to get at the turtles burrow. I need a professionals opinion on the turtles strength to break off wood fencing. Thank you.

      Please understand that what I am going to tell you is my opinion only and that without looking at the situation, it is very difficult to say what is actually happening. That being said, here is what I think:
      Gopher tortoises do not typically break through fencing; they dig under. Besides that, their shells are only 5 or 6 inches high, not 12. My suspicion is that your suspicion is correct.
            Becky


From: Sharon, Subject: {Cold: hasn't moved}, Date: March 3, 2019

A gopher tortoise just showed up today. Its slightly hidden in grass near my back steps. Its alive but it hasn't moved and it's been over 3 hours. Its getting really cold tonight. I am worried about it but not sure if I can or should do anything. Should I be worried? What if anything should I do?
Thank you, Sharon

Hi Sharon,
      Are you sure it's a gopher tortoise? You can email me some pictures if you are not sure.
Just keep an eye on it during the day. Hopefully, when it warms up, the tortoise will move on. You might look around the nearby area and see if there is a burrow somewhere. If there is and the tortoise is still there tonight when it starts getting dark and cold, put it into the burrow. If you can't find a burrow and it appears to be staying put, you could bring it into your garage, back porch, or other unheated area and then take it to a wildlife rehabilitator tomorrow. Or you could just leave it where it is and it might be fine once things warm back up tomorrow. It is very hard for me to say for sure (sorry!).
      Write me back if you have more questions or need more information.
            Becky


Very young baby gopher tortoise From: "Diana, Subject: Baby Gopher Tortoise, Date: February 20, 2019

How old do you think this little baby is? He was crossing the street and we helped him get to the other side. He is beautiful.  We have quite a few of them where I live.
Diana

Diana,
      It is probably from last season's hatch, so several months old but less than a year.
            Becky


From: Melinda, Subject: Baby GT, Date: February 15, 2019

At what age does a baby gopher tortoise first dig it's own burrow? Does it travel far to find its own territory? Thank you.

Hello,
      Some baby gopher tortoises dig their own burrows right after they hatch, while others hide in adult burrows, underneath vegetation, or under objects on the ground. What they do probably depends on the habitat characteristics such as the soil and plants in the area. After hatching, the kids typically stick within a few hundred feet of their nest, but again, this depends on the resources available to them.
      Feel free to write back if you have more questions.
            Becky


From: Gail, Subject: Banana Leaves and Bananas Date: January 30, 2019

Do gopher tortoises eat banana leaves? Is that safe for them? Can they eat bananas?

Hello,
      The first thing I have to tell you is that it is illegal to keep a gopher tortoise in captivity without a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It is also illegal to feed a wild gopher tortoise, or interfere with its natural behavior in any way. If you are doing any of those things, please write me back and I will help you figure out what to do (or stop doing).
      That being said, I don't know if a tortoise would eat banana leaves, but I have seen them eat bananas.
      Becky


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,
      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.
            Becky


 

 


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