WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found that a petition to review the status of the Gopher tortoise in its eastern range, submitted by Save Our Big Scrub, Inc., contains sufficient information to warrant a full status review by the Agency.
The gopher tortoise is so named because it digs burrows that can be 52 feet in length going 23 feet underground. These burrows, which provide protection from temperature extremes, desiccation, and predators, serve as refuges for some 360 other species of animals that share the tortoise’s range.
Endemic to the southeastern coastal plain of the U. S., from southeastern South Carolina to extreme southeastern Louisiana, the tortoise’s eastern range includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
In its petition, Save Our Big Scrub, Inc., lists deforestation of pine stands by private land development as a major threat to the tortoise as the pine stands provide enough light for the various grasses the tortoise feeds, to grow while still offering protection from avian predators.