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Gopher Tortoise

Florida State Tortoise

Gopher tortoise; photo by Craig ONeal on Flickr (use permitted with attribution / share alike).

Official State Tortoise of Florida

Florida designated the endangered gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) as the official state tortoise in 2008 (Senate Bill 1486). Florida recognizes two other reptiles as state symbols (American alligator and loggerhead sea turtle). All State Reptiles

Native to Florida, the gopher tortoise belongs to a group of land tortoises that originated in North America 60 million years ago. The gopher tortoise digs burrows up to 40 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Over three dozen other animal species use these burrows for shelter from harsh weather and predators.

The gopher tortoise population is declining and studies indicate that it may not exist outside of protected areas; it's listed as threatened in Florida - both the tortoise and its burrow are protected under state law. Help preserve this unique, ancient creature - if you find a tortoise on the road, stop your vehicle and gently place it off the road in the direction it is traveling.