The Florida Gopher Tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus, is a species of tortoise native to the coastal plains of the United States. They are predominantly found in the state of Florida, but also range into the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. They spend the majority of their life in burrows around dry places such as sand hills, flat woods, prairies and coastal dunes.
These are medium sized tortoises, averaging 10 inches long and around 9 pounds in weight at adulthood. Their carapace is primarily a brown-gray in color, and their plastron is generally a yellow or tan color. Males are distinguished from females by their concave plastron, and longer tail. It is one of only four species of tortoise native to North America.
Gopher tortoises mate in late spring, during the months of April and May. The female lays between 3 and 15 eggs in a sandy mound somewhere near her burrow. The eggs incubate and hatch in around 70 to 100 days. Hatchlings initially will spend time sheltering in their mother’s burrow but soon wander off on their own. Maturity is not reached until 10-15 years of age.
Gopher tortoises are herbivorous, the bulk of their diet consists of grasses, such as wiregrass, but they will often consume berries, other fruit, or even scavenge carrion that they find within their reach.