Thursday, September 15, 2011

Goodbye Gopher

Happier days.

For years, the gopher above was a regular, but not everyday sight as I left for work or returned home.
It lived about a half mile down from my mailbox, along my quiet country road.

I have stopped to shoo it off the road and back into the grassy shoulder about a dozen times, almost always in the late afternoon as I headed home from work.

My usual shooing plan involved pulling over into the tortoise's lane, stopping close to the gopher, and chastising it for being on the road ... complete with wagging, nagging finger.

For this, I would get a hiss and a gradual turn back to the shoulder.

Then, I'd head on to my driveway.

Here are the trails made by the daily foraging of this gopher. It's all right next to the road. I'm actually standing on the road to take this picture.

This is very close to the giant diamondback rattlesnake location which I posted about a few weeks ago.

No mystery there ... diamondbacks are just one of over a hundred species that use gopher burrows as a refuge.

If you follow the main trail up to the fence line, at the edge of a cutover piney wood, you can see the burrow entrance.

The white sand around the front is from tunnel excavating and is called an "apron".
Often this where a gopher will lay her eggs.
For reasons that will become clear soon enough, I'd like to think there are some small round eggs incubating there right now.

A few days ago, a flock of vultures flew up as I approached the gopher's territory.
"Let it be an armadillo", I thought as I slowed for a look.

It wasn't.
It was my gopher, crushed by a tire and dead.
This is an extremely quiet,isolated area with almost no traffic ... I think this was most likely an unintended death.

I know plenty of good people who still run over snakes (I said "good", not "perfect"), but for the life of me, I've never heard anyone say they purposefully run over turtles.

It could have been a case of distracted driving, texting, makeup adjustments, or a big log truck unable to safely swerve ... whatever the reason, I bet it was unintentional.

Goodbye, Gopher.

Whatever the reason, I'll miss the wonderful old lump of a reptile who made me stop and "shoo" on so many rides home after a long day in the classroom.

I wish I could have been a little bit earlier on this particular day.

If I squint real hard and try to see the bright side in this, there is a pretty sweet burrow left gopherless now, and just waiting to be claimed by a new tenant.

Perhaps one day soon, I'll turn the corner on to my road and find another stubborn gopher in need of a good chewing out.

I'd like that.

Shameless Teaser for tomorrow's post:


Sharon said...

How sad :( I can't imagine anyone purposely running over a turtle. I always move them off of the road if I can do it safely.

rebecca said...

Sadly, I have heard of people who purposely run over turtles. When I lived on Jekyll Island in Georgia, terrapin deaths on the causeway were an annual source of worry, and an often-repeated anecdote involved a State Highway Patrol officer who witness someone obviously swerve out of their way to purposely hit one. The officer, bless his heart, pulled the offending driver over immediately and came up with a reason to give him a ticket.

As a fellow road-turtle-herder you have my heartfelt sympathy - I know the punch in the gut that comes with finding a sight like that.

Anonymous said...

Hi FC,

I am so sorry that your buddy is gone. If there are eggs, will they be okay? I helped a turtle get off the road a while back. Thought of you the whole time. Have a great weekend!


MamaSue said...

I'm so, so sorry. This story just breaks my heart. We have lots of gopher turtles on our property in Fort White. We live way out in the middle of nowhere, on a dirt road with not much traffic. Unfortunately, we also have some who would LOVE nothing more than to run ANYthing over. :(

Bless your little friends' heart...

Island Rider said...

Both you and Zick have sad wildlife stories today. It is like watching Bambi and The Yearling on the same day.

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Sad story. Nice to know you stopped.

Miz S said...

Aw. Poor little guy. That's a shame.

Mark said...

Poor old gopher, one of life's little tragedies. So now you do the only thing you can, which is take note and remember.

robin andrea said...

That's very sad news. Poor gopher.

Sayre said...

I'm sorry. I love gopher turtles and it breaks my heart to think someone might have done it on purpose. I hope there are eggs!!! They don't need to be tended, do they?

Floridacracker said...

Me too! I'm a mover.

Gotta love that Trooper!

Patti and Sayre,
Yes, the eggs are on their own once she lays them anyway.

We are of like minds on this. I have ten or so gophers living on my property and I love having them here, away from the road and people in general.

Cathy S,
Ack! The Yearling slays me. That and Old Yeller.

It was sad to see her reduced to some broken pieces of shell.

Miz S,
Frustratingly so.

How true. Not much else that could be done after the fact.

Yes, I wonder how they could not have seen a tortoise the size of a baking hen?

Lisa at Greenbow said...

How tragically sad. I hope the new tenant will stay away from the road. Would SLOW TORTOISE CROSSING signs be helpful?? snifff

kenoconnor said...

So sad....

Carlene said...

Oh, am so sorry to hear about the death of your friend. My husband and I always try to save turtles in the road when we can do so safely. Just a couple of weeks ago I saw a gopher in the road. It had been hit by a car and I thought it was dead. When I came back a little while later, it was gone. It got me wondering if someone picked it up or maybe it wasn't dead after all. I parked and walked down the road a bit. I saw it crawling in the sand next to the railroad tracks. It had a couple of small cracks in its shell, but one larger one where the shell was pushed in. I called my husband and told him to bring a box so we could get it to the emergency vet. Maybe it had a chance and we had to try. I don't know what became of the tortoise (the vet said they would call the rehabilitator and see what he/she thought). I prefer to think it had a happy ending and is ok, but if not as least the poor thing wasn't left to suffer.

Sally said...

This is so sad. Take heart from your many readers who are careful about turtles. I do wish we constructed all roads with wildlife passageways underneath.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Beaming at your first post, tearing up at this one. Part of the cost of coming to love a species, and an individual animal at that. Heavy sigh from Ohio, and a hug for you. Poor sweet slow gopher. She's from another world, a better and slower one. It's hard for those of us who stop for turtle-shaped rocks, for gosh sakes, to comprehend how someone could hit a giant gopher. But then I can't comprehend texting while driving, either.

Floridacracker said...

It might have. Good idea.

Definitely so.

I'm glad people like you are out there. Let's hope it turned out well.

Me too! Just imagine the carnage reduction.

This one is a bit incomprehensible.
She was huge and it happened in broad daylight.
Sigh ...