Gopher Tortoise – (Gopherus polyphemus) is a cold blooded reptile that can live up to 40-60 years. It digs deep burrows in sandy soils for shelter which also provides home for up to 350 other species of animals and insects. Mice, snakes, opossums, rabbits, frogs and crickets are just a few of the other species that share the tortoises burrow. It is called a Keystone Species because there are so many other animals that depend on the tortoise for its survival. I saw this tortoise on a sandy dune on Bunche Beach but it can also be found further inland and upland areas including forests, pastures and yards. The tortoise feeds on vegetation including different kinds of grasses, blackberries and fruits that grow on shrubs. It has very strong legs and a hard outer shell which protects it from predators. The website of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission contains some additional information about the Gopher Tortoise.
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