I love living in my house. Today, we were working in our little home office and we heard a strange knock at the front door. The door has cut glass windows; I could see that there was no one standing outside. I started to walk away and the knock came again. So, I went back to the door and carefully opened it. Much to my surprise, at my feet was a gopher tortoise. It must have been bumping its shell against the door.

We have no idea what he was trying to do. We have seen them in the back yard on many occasions but not in the front. Maybe he was trying to take a short cut through our house.

Gopher tortoises are often run over by cars when they try to cross a road or street. Some Floridians will stop their car to move a tortoise from a roadway. It is important to note if you do help one cross a road, by picking it up and moving it, be sure to place the tortoise facing the same direction it was traveling before you intervened.

We picked this guy up and carried him to the backyard and put him down. He crawled off into the wetlands.

Gopher tortoises are an interesting animal and are a protected species in Florida. They live in burrows dug in the ground of 5–20 feet in length. The gopher tortoise is especially important because the burrows they dig also provide homes for other animals such as snakes, frogs, mice, foxes, opossums, rabbits, and others. Biologists say that gopher tortoise burrows can be home to about 250 species of animals at one time or another.

A gopher tortoise’s life span is almost 100 years. They eat plants and leaves and very seldom drink, getting needed moisture from their diet. They don’t reproduce until they are about 12–15 years old.

An adult weighs about 25–30 pounds. It is very important to never transport tortoises out of their habitat. They develop resistance to bacteria and parasites in their home territory. If transported to new ground, a newcomer can harm the others in that area. It only takes one sick tortoise to infect an entire population of healthy ones.


FOG sez:

I love gopher tortoises; they move about as fast as I do.