GOPHER TORTOISEGopherus polyphemus
Conservation Status: Vulnerable
Habitat loss, road mortality, predation, disease
Brown in color
Up to 19 inches
Approximately 12 lbs
Found in the southeastern part of the United States, including southwestern South Carolina, south almost to the tip of the Florida peninsula; west through southern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, to Louisiana and the edge of southeastern Texas and Arkansas.
Sand dune areas and longleaf pine forests
Continuous from spring until fall
Feed on grasses, cacti and other succulents, and flowers
Contructs a burrow for use as a retreat from predators and the weather. Will use deeper burrows to hibernate for the winter. Diurnal. Young are protected by parents in burrows.
1. Very social, head-bob at one another whenever they meet
2. Male to male encounters will escalate into ramming contests using the gular projections on the plastron
3. These tortoises are increasingly collected illegally for the Asian food markets.
4. They are a keystone species with their burrows being used by over 100 other species.
5. Sex is temperature dependent; greater than 86 F is female, less than is male