Friday, May 14, 2010

Caution: Tortoise Crossing

My son was cleaning off our front porch recently, when he called us out to see a tiny visitor:

A baby gopher tortoise!

Experts think gopher tortoises may live as long as 60 years. They grow slowly, taking from 9 to 21 years to reach sexual maturity, and average nine to 11 inches in length. They eat mostly grasses and legumes, and some wild fruits and berries. They are the only tortoise found east of the Mississippi River.

Gopher tortoises dig burrows in dry habitats, including pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, dry prairies, xeric hammock, pine-mixed hardwoods, and coastal dunes. These burrows, which average 15 feet long and six and a half feet deep, protect them from predators, the elements and extreme conditions such as drought, freezing weather or fires. Gopher tortoise burrows also serve as homes for other creatures, such as snakes, frogs, mice, rabbits, armadillos and even skunks and foxes. Some of these animals share the burrow with the tortoise, and others take up residence in abandoned burrows.

In Florida, gopher tortoises are categorized as a Threatened Species, primarily because of loss of habitat.

He kindly posed for a picture before crawling off into the bushes

This little guy has come to visit us a couple of times, apparently finding our front porch a good place to hang out. We're always on the lookout for his next appearance. Especially when pulling the cars out of the garage...

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8 comments:

Laure Ferlita said...

What a cutie!! And so tiny he looks like a toy in that first photo!

You're going to sketch him, right???????

Kathy A. Johnson said...

I sure am! I must have a thing for turtles/tortoises--one of my favorite paintings in the beach class was the sea turtle.

Meredith said...

Adorable! I can only imagine how thrilled you must be, Kathy, to know your home and yard are host to a threatened species (and a cute and wonderful one at that -- I mean who wants to play host to an ugly, threatened sea cucumber? ;)

Kathy A. Johnson said...

It is so much easier to be conservation minded when the species in question is cute or pretty, isn't it? I am really grateful for the people who love snakes and skinks and all the more unlovely creatures that need protecting.

Krista said...

Oh, how adorable! I've seen a turtle that small before. Glad you found him and are taking care of him by letting him live in your yard. What a sweet story.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

A plus for him, too, is that he's in the front yard, away from the dog. I hope he comes to visit us again soon.

Teresa said...

What a handsome little fellow! And such a beautiful yellowy gold color.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Yes, his color was lovely. After taking Laure's watercolor class, I'm thinking, hmmm, what colors can I mix together to get his shade?