Audubon Western Everglades has partnered with the City of Marco Island to lean more about the Gopher Tortoises on the Island. We have embarked on a comprehensive land study locating where all the burrows are on Marco Island.
This land study will estimate the population of tortoises by surveying all potential properties with ideal habitat and count any burrows present. This information will aid us in the getting more protection for this state threatened species. It is illegal to harass or destroy gopher tortoise(s), their egg or burrows.
If you see any type of destruction please call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission immediately.
Gopher Tortoises are grouped with land tortoises originating over 60 million years ago. Marco Island was an ideal habitat for this species since it has uplands of sandy soil. With the increased urbanization, tortoises have adapted to living amongst the human population. Other tortoises are relocated off the island due to increased development.
If you find an injured tortoise, call the Von Arx Wildlife Hospital at (239) 262-2273.
If you find a collapsed burrow or any other suspicious activity, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at (888) 404-3922.
About Gopher Tortoises
What is their size?
Adults are 8-15in in length and 8-15lbs. Females are larger than males. Males have a concave plastron while females have a flat plastron.
What is their lifespan?
They can live 40-60yrs.
Where do they live?
Well-drained, sandy soils found in habitats such as longleaf pine sandhills, oak hammocks, scrub, pine flatwoods, dry prairies, and coastal dunes.
How long are their burrows?
They can be up to 40ft in length and around 6ft deep. Eggs are laid in the front apron of dirt/sand at the entrance of the burrow.
Can Gopher Tortoises swim?
No. They are a terrestrial reptile with no ability to swim. Please do not mistake a Gopher Tortoise for an aquatic turtle and put it in a canal or the gulf. They will not survive! They need to be on dry land.
The Gopher Tortoise is a wildlife landlord providing shelter for more than 350 other species including endangered animals such as burrowing owls and indigo snakes.