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Wildlife | What We're Learning | Advice for Landowners | Alabama |

Tyler's Tips for Tortoises


Written by Jessica Wentzell
on April 10, 2019

 

In celebration of 🐢Gopher Tortoise Day [April 10th], we have reached out to specialist; Tyler Sibley, Fish and Wildlife Biologist with the Alabama Forestry Association, for ten tips to make Gopher Tortoises feel at home in your forest.

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Ten tips to make Gopher Tortoises feel at home in your forest.

  • 1. Gopher tortoises are great occupants of a working forest, so planting trees, thinning, and prescribed fire are suitable habitat practices to make your Gopher Tortoise feel at home.
  • 2. This fire adapted species lives in areas of frequent fire and prefers an open habitat [ landscape that is not enclosed by trees. ]
  • 3. Gopher Tortoise are ecosystem engineers, digging burrows in sandy soils creating a home. Some burrows have been recorded to be 47 feet long, but typically are 15-20 feet long.

 

Tyler Sibley Gopher Tortoise Scope WoodsCamp

Burrow cameras are used by Wildlife Biologists and can help them determine whether a gopher tortoise burrow is occupied and the overall size and health of a local tortoise population. Check out this great clip captured by Tyler Sibley, during one of his visits with a landowner. 

Click here to find you with your property is eligible for a FREE visit from a Wildlife Biologist. 


  • 4. The entrance of burrows (Aprons) can be identified by mounds of loose sand. Be aware of these entrances and try to avoid them, if possible.
  • 5. Being a Herbivore, their preferred diet consists of grass, leaves, and fruit. 
  • 6. Have the perfect basking spot? These cold blooded reptiles, love to sunbathe. Basking is required for warmth and incubation of eggs. 

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Juvenile Gopher Tortoise basking in the sun


  • 7. These land dwellers cannot swim, nor are they found in water. If your Gopher Tortoise looks a little heated, he likely won't be interested in a dip to cool off. 
  • 8. Tortoises lay their eggs in sandy soils that have lots of sunlight to keep them warm (usually in the apron). Eggs are the size of a ping pong ball and contain 3-15 per clutch (if you see these, leave them untouched). If all goes well, hatchlings will emerge from the nest in late summer.
  • 9.  A tortoise burrow is important to your forest habitat, as it provides shelter to 400 other species, making it a keystone species [* A species that is needed in a habitat for many other species to stay healthy and survive.]
  • 10. It is alright to move a tortoise off the road if you encounter one, but do not relocate or take it home with you. 

 

"Gopher Tortoises are great occupants of a working forest, so planting trees, thinning, and prescribed fire are suitable habitat practices to make your Gopher Tortoise feel at home."

 

Interested in learning more about Gopher Tortoises on your land? Get your free woodland report to determine whether you are eligible for a free visit from a wildlife biologist, or to find out more about other opportunities in your forest.

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