Saturday, April 19, 2008


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)


Cathy S. said...

I love this photo. Post it all you like with no apologies. I have some very similar ones, just a different face. Nice story. You really should compile these into a book.

Floridacracker said...

Cathy S,
Hi! Thanks... the time goes by fast doesn't it.

Dan said...

How lucky you and the tortoises are to be neighbors! I lived in rural north Florida for 20 years but I never saw a gopher tortoise.

dani813 said...

Before I scrolled down, I was telling hubby about the pic of Jr. with the turtle.I just love that pic.

lej619 said...

I thought you were going to tell us that the picture of the little boy and the turtle was you. lol
it's amazing how much our kids look like us, duh their our kids ...but we as parents don't always see it.
love the pictures!

robin andrea said...

I love seeing that photo of Jr and the turtle. His face is so joyously expressive. A wonderful moment. Your turtle families are very lucky to be where they are on your land.

Anonymous said...

Never too much of a good thing, FC, whether it's kids, turtles, or great photos.

Anonymous said...

Happy anniversary FC. Great info,a positive action is never over repeated.
Bro J

Anonymous said...

Fantastic stuff here at Critter Central. I can't see how a new DSC-H50B could improve your pics, bro. I am amazified with the incredible colors, texture, and variety of the subjects you capture already.

Tortugas lindas. Tenía un par de tortugas de desierto hace un número de años. La gran diversión que lo mira come maíz de la mazorca. Nombrado los Methuselah y Noah. Amaron cavar debajo de la fundación de la casa y de los robles. Sabía que el cuadro no estaba de se porque no tenían color el procesar de la parte posteriora de la manera entonces. Hahaha.

threecollie said...

What a sweet picture! What is happening with the porch turtles? I was wondering if I might have missed a post somewhere...I'll bet they are too big for a bowl and spoon by now.

Anonymous said...

My wife is a devotee of your blog and periodically I get it forwarded. I envy you your gophers. Mine, alas, are gone. I had two active holes, with the attendant rattlers. I don't worry about them and found them fascinating. Last year, maybe the drought, but on mowing my meadow, realized my gophers were gone, the snakes were gone, the rats that supported the whole lot were gone.
Enjoy yours, they are vanishing.

Jan G. Rogers-Havana, FL

ldybug said...

thanks for showing the marking on the bottom. I never knew that. You always manage to show the "unknown" side of common things.

Floridacracker said...

I think that is sadly possible these days ... to live here 20 years and not see a gopher. Makes me all the more protective of my cohabitants.

Me too!

Thanks! Not me this time!

I knew it would be okay with you :)
Those turtles are the easiest neighbors to live with.

I feel that way too.

Bro J,
I like that thought.

Thanks ... I'm pretty stoked over this camera.
Our gopher is very similar to your desert tortoises. Did you say they looked like corn on the cob?
Mi espanol esta mal.

The porch turtles are doing great. I am supposed to begin releasing them this spring so it's time for an update.
Thanks for asking!

Sorry they're gone, but maybe they will recolonize your place.

Glad you liked the baby pictures!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, they LOVE corn on the cob and virtually any melon, or anything cruciferous. Can't get enough of watching them eat with their pink tongues trying to capture whole kernels when they can. That shell flipper thingy, the gular horn makes it a challenge for them to get at it, but they do a fine job.
Nice to know more about their cousins than I did before.
Dude, you should be a teacher.

Floridacracker said...

Maybe I'll pursue that :)

OldHorsetailSnake said...

All is beautiful, Mr. Perfect.

Floridacracker said...

You funny rascal.

Sharon said...

You are forgiven, I love that picture! :)

tsiya said...

Not many gophers here these days, and the box tortoises are really scarce.
Keep on caring!

threecollie said...

Love your new header photo!!!

Kimberlee said...

I really enjoy tortoises and turtles of almost any variety. And I especially enjoyed this post. The photos, new and old, are great. Thanks for sharing again for those of us who are relative newcomers to your blog. :)

Floridacracker said...

Thanks Sharon!

I know and it's sad considering their once important status there.

Hey, I have a different sort of turtle post coming up this week. I'm taking the pics today.

Floridacracker said...

I thought it had spring/summer written all over it. Glad you like it!

FloridaBoy said...

"Your" tortoises remind me of "mine," when I lived in the sandhills nr Archer, FL. Bless them, I often saw gopher frogs, whipsnakes and indigos at or nr their burrow entrances.

Alas, "teenage" gangs of dogs would come thru at night and chase a fox or something down a gopher burrow, and the next day I would find a destroyed burrow. I figured out what to do about those dogs, tho (but don't tell JZ).

I also used to wake up late on Saturday mornings and look out my bedroom window at a particular tortoise that liked to feed just under that window. Her fav food there? Crabgrass (Digitaria sp.). Bless her.

Floridacracker said...

Maybe I can teach mine to eat spiderwort!

Alan said...

When we lived out in Baker County we lived on an area that had for quite some time been known as Gopher Ridge. They were everywhere - before the houses sprang up and brought dogs with them. We tried our best to keep the ones on our 5 acres but the dogs from around the other houses in the neighborhood usually had other ideas.

Floridacracker said...

I think that gets repeated alot in FL.