Gopher Tortoise: A Keystone Species at Hundred Acre Hollows
The gopher tortoise lives in the southeast United States in scrub oak forests and pine flatwoods. The tortoise is a solitary animal. It lives alone or with the other species; two tortoises don’t live in the same burrow. Tortoises come out to eat, and the grass around an active burrow looks like it was mowed. They eat a wide variety of grass, leaves, fruits, saw palmetto berries, and legumes. Their favorite food is gopher apples which are not in HAH, so we plan to plant some.
The Space Coast Eco Geeks, four science teachers from Brevard County, identified 249 burrows using GPS. Tortoises may have dug two burrows, so we don’t know exactly how many tortoises live in Hundred Acre Hollows. Tortoises live and have been seen on all sides of HAH. The Eco Geeks had 5 camera traps there in the 2015-2016 school year.
According to the photos, the tortoises are healthy, and there are photos of tortoises mating. Two baby tortoises were seen in HAH in the spring of 2017. The female tortoise lays her eggs, which are about the size of a ping pong ball, on the sandy apron of her burrow. Unfortunately, most of the gopher tortoise eggs are eaten by predators such as raccoons and bobcats. About one in 100 eggs actually hatch.
We are concerned about what would happen to all the commensal species that rely on the gopher tortoise burrow for survival if the gopher tortoise disappears. Please help us save Hundred Acre Hollows for all the animals that live here by becoming a volunteer or making a donation.
These are a few of the many gopher tortoises that live in Hundred Acre Hollows.
Go to www.spacecoastecogeeks.blogspot.com to see camera trap photos.
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