Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gopher Tortoise

The city park north of New Smyrna Beach, Florida, is another location we revisited on our return journey. A two-mile boardwalk protects dunes from being trampled by joggers and dog-walkers.  We found several Gopher Tortoises guarding their burrows.  (We did not see them in 2010.) 

These terrestrial turtles are found in Florida and southern areas of Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and  eastern Louisiana. The burrow's temperature determines the tortoise's sex--over 85 degrees F, produce females, under results in males. Gopher Tortoises are classified as Threatened Species in Florida.  In Florida, habitat destruction is the prime threat--just look at the condos and hotels ringing the coastline.  Tortoises have also been killed for food or by people trying to eradicate the rattlesnakes that often share their burrows. You can learn more about Gopher Tortoises at gophertortoise.com, (where much of this information was gleaned).

Like the National Seashore adjacent to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, we were surprised by the crowds at the beach. This year the beach looked more like a parking lot, so dense were the cars parked above the high water mark.  No place for birding.  Between two parked cars, however, a small flock of Snowy Egrets allowed me exceptionally close approach.  I never did flush them.

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