Gopher Tortoise Day

Come one, come all to a celebration of all things Gopher Tortoise!

In a previous post, we talked about springtime and how it’s a wonderful chance to get outside and experience nature. Well, this Saturday (April 8th) at Upper Tampa Bay Park we will be hosting Gopher Tortoise Day to represent this unique and important native Florida species. The event starts at 10:00am and runs until 3:00pm, with things to explore and learn in their scrubland home.

What’s so cool about gopher tortoises? Here are five fabulous facts about this local reptile:

  1. They are a digging species that builds burrows underground where they live year-round. The record length was over 45 feet long, but most average about 16 feet long and over 6 feet deep.
  2. The burrows are deep because they live in areas that naturally have brush fires, which would clear out the thick plants and make way for the smaller, juicer plants that smaller mammals and reptiles rely on.
  3. It isn’t just a home for one, though! Over 350 other species make use of tortoise burrows for shelter as well, including snakes, rabbits, burrowing owls, and opossums! Because so many different animals rely on the gopher tortoise for shelter and food, they are considered a Keystone Species- one that an ecosystem can’t do without.
  4. Of the five North American tortoise species, the gopher tortoise is the only one found east of the Mississippi River.
  5. Gopher tortoises are listed as a Threatened species, and both they and their burrows are protected by state law. If you ever see a gopher tortoise, you’re in for a treat, but make sure that you don’t touch, feed, or harass them.

So there you go. Five reasons that the gopher tortoise is a pretty neat creature. If you want to learn more, or just want a fun day at the park, come visit us this Saturday, April 8th, from 10-3 at Upper Tampa Bay Park. If you want more fun outdoor things to do after stopping by our booth, check out the nature trails, boat rentals, and playground. Or, you can bring a lunch a make an afternoon of it.

Hope to see you there!

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