Shell-elebrate World Turtle Day on May 23

In Florida’s pine sand hills, coastal dune areas, and even urban lots, the increasingly rare gopher tortoise makes its home. Florida’s only native tortoise species has been on the planet for 60 million years and can be found in all 67 Florida counties.  

But their populations have declined significantly, primarily due to habitat loss. In the Florida Panhandle and southeast coastal regions especially, populations are severely reduced from historical levels.

Five Fun Facts About Gopher Tortoises 

  1. Longevity – Gopher tortoises are long-lived creatures, with lifespans that can exceed 60 years in the wild. 
  2. Excellent Diggers – Gopher tortoises are adept at digging burrows. Their burrows can be up to 40 feet long and 10 feet deep, providing protection from predators and extreme temperatures. 
  3.  Thermoregulation – They are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. Their burrows provide a stable environment, helping them survive in both hot and cold climates. 
  4. Mating Rituals –  During the breeding season, male gopher tortoises engage in aggressive behaviors to establish dominance and access to females. This can include head bobbing, ramming, and flipping other males onto their backs. 
  5. Critical Role in Ecosystems – Beyond providing shelter for other species, gopher tortoises help maintain the health of their habitats through their feeding habits and burrowing activities. By aerating the soil and dispersing seeds, they contribute to the regeneration of plant communities.

As part of our efforts to educate the public about these wonderful creatures, the Federation developed educational signs to broaden awareness and ensure safe interaction with them. Two different informative signs were created with information about the tortoises in upland and coastal habitats.

In recent years generous donations from members and supporters have helped us produce and distribute these educational signs. That is why we are reaching out, to ask for your help in protecting this threatened native species.

Help us distribute more signs and continue protecting the gopher tortoise by donating today. 


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