Top 10 Gopher Tortoise Facts, Size, Weight, Diet

Gopher tortoise

This tortoise is a very long-lived reptile and lives In a scrubby habitat, like in the areas of forests, and where the soil is sandy. It has a scientific name of “Gopherus polyphemus” and belongs to the class Reptilia. Sometimes, it is called the Florida Gopher tortoise as this is the only native species left there (in Florida) and for this, even a day by the name Gopher tortoise day! Is celebrated.

The fact behind its name

Gopher word is used for the tortoises of sandy regions with strong feet. It is named so, because of its feet which are strong enough to dig larger, and wider, and deeper burrows thus providing shelter and home to a variety of species. 

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Gopher tortoise classification

Lets have a look at its classification: 

Scientific NameGopherus polyphemus
Order Testudines
SpeciesG. polyphemus
Diet Herbivores
Lifespan 40 to 60 years.
Weight2 to 6 kg
Incubation period 80 to 110 days.  
Trophic levelHerbivores
Length 23 to 28 cm

Gopher tortoise physical appearance

These tortoises are easy to recognize due to their hind feet which are stump-like and un-webbed plus flattened. Its forelimbs are specialized for the digging process and they follow a shovel-like shape. As well as its color is concerned, its carapace is a mix of oblong, brown, gray or tan color. The unhinged plastron adopts a pale brownish and dull yellowish color. 

Gopher tortoise size

They do not have any massive size and follow a moderate size, but exactly How big do Gopher tortoises get?  The carapace length of an adult tortoise can fall between 23 and 28 cm. It can continue up to 38.7 cm.

Gopher tortoise weight

Following its size, its weight is not so heavy. It can weigh anyone between 2 to 6 kg. However, on average most of them weigh about 4kg. Females when fully adults become larger than males and so is their weight. 

Gopher tortoise facts

  1. A very interesting fact about it is that it plays a primary role in their native community by digging wider burrows which provides shelter to 350 different species.
  2. It takes so long to be mature, and live a very long life more than 60 years with a low reproduction rate.
  3. When its population was on peak, its shells were used as helmets, pots, and even baskets.
  4. It is also known as Florida gopher tortoise and is currently listed as threatened there.
  5. They are not well at swimming, and can even drown. 

Gopher tortoise diet

Being herbivores, a major part of Gopher tortoise food comprises grasses, it feeds on low-growing plants. Take an example! Wiregrass, gopher apple, broadleaf apple, and legumes are all low-growing plants eaten as a part of its diet. 

Gopher tortoise lifespan

These tortoises are allowed to live for very, very long years of their life to see the beauty of nature and feel it. But exactly How long do Gopher tortoises live? According to resources, they can live up to 80 years when in the wild, and in captivity, it can live even longer than this, thus up to 100 years. When it becomes 10 to 20 years old, it becomes sexually mature.

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Population threat

Its population is declining since its evolution, and one reason behind this is the low reproduction rate. It seems they don’t like mating much, wonderfully.! Young tortoises which are born, only a few of them survive which leads to its decreased population. Other threats include its habitat destruction, fragmentation of habitat, and degradation by urbanization. Roadkill is one major threat to their life. 


Their eggs are more vulnerable to predators like opossums and raccoons. They are an easy target to skunks, foxes, armadillos, alligators, snakes, and birds.

Gopher tortoise habitat

Most of its species are found to live in dry-lands, well-drained, and in the sandy soils near to the longleaf pine and dry oak sandhills. It lives in a dry hammock, pine Flatwoods, scrub, dry prairie, dunes, and coastal grasslands. A variety of habitats that are now not in their original shape are also e native to them, such as along roadsides and power line rights-of-way.

Gopher tortoise adaptations

Several adaptations are made by every single animal in the wild who wants to live. This species of tortoise Is given specialized feet by nature especially for the process of digging. By the use of them, it burrows underground and remains safe from predators. Its burrow can be 3 to 52 feet long, which it could not have done if it would not have such feet.

Gopher tortoise range

These tortoises are known to be found in the southeastern United States, but it extends out from South Carolina’s southern tip through a restricted area at the utmost eastern ends of Louisiana. The tortoises living on the eastern side, its range includes Florida, Alabama, and southern South Carolina as said earlier. 

Gopher tortoise mating

During the months between April and November, mating is done and eggs are laid by females. Per mating, 1 to 25 eggs are hatched. The incubation period lasts for about 100 days. Sometimes, during the incubation, mother tortoises keep them near the burrow top to warm them through direct sunlight. 

Gopher tortoise baby

Anyone can guess the gender of the baby during incubation by finding out the temperature at which It is incubated. If the temperature is above 30 degrees Celsius, it would be a female, otherwise male. Babies that are born are vulnerable to wild cats, and dogs, and other predators. Those who survive, grow at a slow rate. 

Gopher tortoise as a pet

When it comes to keeping a gopher tortoise as a pet, most people ask Is it illegal to pick up a gopher tortoise? So, the answer is yes! First of all, these tortoises are not at all allowed to keep as pets and are considered illegal if you do so unless you obtain a permit. Honestly! You would surely be a lucky person if you are granted the permit.

Gopher tortoise price

This tortoise will cost you more than normal tortoises as it is almost extinct thus rehabilitation initiatives, and the best environmental specialists you choose, overall its cost will be high. Thus, keep money in your pocket in between $1000 to $3000 to buy it.

Do gopher tortoises bite?

It seems like they have got good manners as they don’t bite and not even when it is stalked by a predator. It only uses its shell to defend itself, and thus hide its head into its shell.

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Gopher tortoise care

Luckily, if you own it as a pet, Take a note! you are going to take care of it more than you do care for yourself. Provide them with a mixed variety of food and not only the grass as it won’t fulfill its dietary needs. While keeping it outdoor, make sure to cover its enclosure from all sides so any roadside dog or cat won’t attack it. Enclosure should be much larger as compared to their size. 

How can you tell if your Gopher tortoise is male or female?

You can tell the gender of your tortoise by looking with concentration at its plastron. When you look at it carefully, notice one thing, if the carapace is flat or concave. If it is flat, it would definitely be a female tortoise, and if it is concave, then it’s a male tortoise. 

How can you tell the age of the Gopher tortoise?

A customized gauge is not available for guessing the age, but a tactic is famous. This tortoise has growth rings on its carapace surface, visible to anyone. By counting them, and doing some math on them, you can guess the age of your gopher tortoise. Thank me later!

What to feed your Gopher tortoise?

Feed them with low-growing plants as well as berries, flowers, mushrooms, broad-leaves, grass, and apples plus cactus pads. When in the wild, it absorbs plenty of water from the plants it eats, but when kept in captivity, make sure to keep a water bowl inside their enclosure. If you have a baby tortoise, then eat them more legumes rich in protein and fewer grasses. 

How many gopher tortoises are left?

Due to all of the factors mentioned above, these tortoises have now left with only one-third of its original population centuries ago. According to researchers, only 700,000 of these tortoises are now left in the wild. In its western range state, it is declared a threatened species under the “Endangered Species Act.”

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