Gopherus polyphemus

The gopher tortoise is one of four tortoise species in the United States. It is the only tortoise species found in the southeast U.S. They are brown to gray as adults and black with orange/yellow centers of the scutes on the carapace as hatchlings. The can reach up to 15.2 in (38.7 cm) in carapace length.  They have elephant like limbs that are built for excavating large burrows in upland areas. They are mostly herbivorous with the bulk of their diet being grasses. The gopher tortoise is a keystone species in Florida. Approximately 350 species of animals have been documented to use their burrows throughout their range in the southeastern United States. Their open grassy habitat is maintained by fire regimes both naturally and through prescribed fire. Their burrows act as a retreat for many wildlife species during fires. They are a Threatened species in Florida and federally protected in the western part of their range.