A common, yet threatened keystone species of the pineland scrubs of Florida, the gopher tortoise is extremely important to so many of the species it lives with, tremendous conservation efforts are being put into place to save this vulnerable animal and its habitat. This long-lived and only native North American tortoise is found throughout much of the coastal Southeast, and the most important thing it does for its home is dig. Gopher tortoises dig enormous burrows that can be up to 50 feet long and nearly 10 feet deep, and not only just one burrow. Over the area of several acres, it can build many burrows to suit its needs over a lifetime. These tunnels keep it safe from predators, cool in summer, warm in winter, and more importantly - become homes and shelters for other species who have evolved to take advantage of this master burrower's talents. Biologists have named at least 360 species that rely on these burrows for their own livelihood, such as foxes, skunks, rattlesnakes, etc.... This one was photographed near the Estero River in Estero, Florida.
- Rich Leighton
- Image Size
- 3008x2000 / 4.3MB
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