Gopher Tortoise Burrow

The gopher tortoise is a keystone species, meaning that it’s very important to the health of the ecosystem it inhabits.  Gopher tortoise burrows provide shelter to hundreds of different animals, ranging from frogs to owls and even endangered indigo snakes.  Just like the keystone to an archway, once you remove gopher tortoises from their ecosystems, a lot of other species disappear with it.  Their ecological value all revolves around their burrows.

The average gopher tortoise burrow is roughly 15 feet long and as much as 6-8 feet deep below the ground surface. These burrows commonly curve on their way down, which probably helps protect its tortoise occupant against predators, while maintaining a constant temperature and humidity in the burrow.  

Gopher Tortoise

Animal Facts


Gopherus polyphemus


Native to the southeastern United States.  Gopher tortoises prefer well-drained, sandy soils found in habitats such as longleaf pine sandhills, xeric oak hammocks, scrub, pine flatwoods, dry prairies, and coastal dunes.


Because gopher tortoises eat so much greenery -- from grasses and berries to stinging nettles and prickly pear cacti -- they get most of the water they need from those plants.  They rarely need to go out of their way to drink water, and usually only do so during a drought.

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