Florida gopher tortoise day is April 10, 2020. Gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) are one of the oldest living species and have been around for more than 60 million years.
They dig deep burrows for shelter that can be up to 33 feet long in Florida’s sandy soils and which they share with more than 350 other species including the endangered Eastern indigo snake, rodents, gopher frog, Florida mouse, and hundreds of invertebrates. Because so many other critters rely on their burrows, they are termed a keystone species.
Gopher tortoises forage on wildflowers and grasses, plants that grow in open, sunny locations. With the suppression of fire, the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) soon will no longer be able to support gopher tortoises.
Their all-time favorite food is tread-softly (Cnidoscolus stimulosus). Also know as finger rot or stinging nettle, this plant is covered with irritating hairs.
Gopher tortoises have co-evolved with this vicious plant, and have learned to love it.