We saw this Gopher Tortoise just walking on the beach on Sanibel Island. It was a moderate size tortoise, about 12 inches long. You can tell a Gopher Tortoise by its elephant hind feet and very flattened and stumpy. It uses its shovel like forelimbs for digging for food. The shell is a shade of tan with some gray and oblong in shape.
They love to live in a well drained sandy areas with trees that can give it shade with lots of low growing vegetation. You can find them also in sand hills, dry prairies, coastal dunes, and lots of pine trees.
During the winter they become less active, and warm days you will see them waddling to some sandy areas of their burrows. Its body is formed to move soil around which helps them build burrows which will protect them from the cold, heat, drought and predators. Their burrows can be 50 feet long which is easy for them to build because of their strong legs
Their name suits them because they do act like a Gopher by always digging and they like to eat grass and vegetation that they live near to survive. These Reptiles feed on low growing plants like grass, bean plants, prickly pear cactus, blackberries and other seasonal berries. One important condition that these Reptiles need to survive are, sandy soils for burrowing,and sunny areas for laying eggs.
One thing I did think was very interesting is that these Tortoises will share their burrows with Owls, snakes, mice, Opossums, Rabbits, Gophers, Frogs, and even Crickets. So in the long run, the Gopher Tortoises are helping other creatures by providing them a home for safety, and if there is a decline in Gopher Tortoises then there will be a decline in other species that rely on them.
I kept watching it and boy was it slow in the way in travels from one place to another. The breeding season is in April-November, and the nests are constructed often in burrow mounds from mid may to mid June. One Clutch of babies are hatched once a year. A Clutch is about five to ten eggs.
It was fun to watch this creature just doing its thing, and not worry what I was doing. Once in a while it would look at me and turn and start trudging another way, but I just kept snapping its photos.
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