North American Tortoises
Four native tortoise species walk the North American soils. The least known and largest species, the Bolson tortoise (Gopherus flavomarginatus) inhabits high altitude areas of the a Chihuahuan desert in northern Mexico and areas of New Mexico and Arizona.
Listed as endangered, efforts to protect its critical habitat have been established.
The Texas Tortoise (Gopherus berlandieri), pictured above, the smallest of the four native tortoise species, inhabits areas of northern Mexico and Southern Texas.
Population declines led to its being designated a protected species in 1977.
Up to date population studies are lacking. Past research shows, "the fast growing human population, and agricultural influences are creating a 'fringed' population that remains healthy only along the outer borders of the Rio Grande Valley. As human population and agriculture continue to spread, the Texas Tortoise population becomes increasingly threatened."
A similar scenario also holds true for many Texas turtle species. Over the past decade or so commercial interests have also placed great stress on all of the state's turtle populations.
The Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) inhabits sandy soil areas in the Souteastern United States from Florida to the eastern parts of Louisiana.
They live year round in large burrows, often measuring thirty feet in length. During the day they emerge to bask in the sun and forage for food, mostly plant life.
They are medium-sized, with adults growing up to 16 inches in length. They are also be long lived, with estimates suggesting that under optimal conditions some reach the ripe old age of sixty.
The western population population are federally listed as threatened, with habitat loss cited as the cause of declining populations. Florida also lists them as threatened.
Georgia designated them the official state reptile in 1989. The video shows a pair engaged in some early morning communication.
The Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), a Southwest native species with distinct populations in the Mohave and Sonoran deserts.
The Sonoran desert population tends to live along rocky hillsides, the Mohave desert population tends to live in flatland areas.
Both subspecies tend to hibernate in underground burrows during the winter, occasionally
A variety of government and non-governmental organizations are working to improve its long term survival prospects.
The Mojave population has been listed as threatened. In October 2008 a couple of groups petitioned to have the Sonoran Desert population likewise listed, claiming that population levels have fallen by about 50% during the past twenty years.
© 2008-2013. Patricia A. Michaels