Look at the Chelonian wisdom in that ancient face.
I suppose if you blog daily about a region, but mostly about a particular place, you will repeat yourself on a seasonal basis. I just did a search and it seems that I passed my 3rd year of blogging back on April 10th ... I'm sure I've written about gopher tortoises many times in those 3 years.
Here I go again ...
At Pure Florida HQ, we share our ten acres with a colony of gophers who were here before the first immigrants arrived in the New World, 10,000+ years ago. It didn't take early Floridians long to discover that Gophers were delicious as was their cousin, a giant tortoise who is now extinct.
It turns out, if you are delicious and slow, it might be better to be small and not so obvious. We can't get an opinion from the ice age megafauna that shared Florida with the gopher, because they were hunted to extinction by the first tribes to settle in Florida.
Later immigrants were no different ... including my St. Augustine Minorcan ancestors who started eating gophers as soon as they got here in 1738.
For a few decades now, gopher tortoises have been protected here in Florida. You can no longer collect them as food and developers are supposed to mitigate for their protection.
Mostly they need open savannah-like habitat. My policy of burning the open patches of PFHQ is primarily for their benefit, although there is a host of other good things that the seasonal burns provide.
I don't know how many gopher tortoises live here on this 10 acre slice of heaven. Some burrows are active for years and then are abandoned and a new one opens up nearby. I imagine I have a colony of about a dozen, but have no solid facts to back that up. It's just my experienced opinion, built upon countless walkabouts. It seems that the only area of PFHQ with no gopher burrows is the immediate house area and the low, wet front quarter near the "pond".
The wise old face in the first photo turns out to be not so old, but still preloaded with instinctive wisdom. This little baby was strolling past the garden last week and I requested a brief photo session before it went on it's way.
It was so young. It may have hatched that very day.
It was still sporting a yolk sac scar.
A baby gopher like this little cutie (and I usually find a few each year) is validation that my PFHQ gopher management plan is working.
It's nice to get tangible positive feedback from a long term project. Baby gophers give me hope for the species and for Florida's natural heritage.
Baby gophers also trigger other very happy memories ...
... of a funny little boy on an afternoon about 13 years ago.
The little boy is taller than me now (still funny) and I hope the tiny gopher he was so excited about is still here too, quietly burrowing through the deep sands of PFHQ.
(Long time readers ... forgive me posting this pic yet again ... it just seemed to fit)