A couple weeks ago I posted a photo of the gopher tortoise burrow I found at Moody Forest. Though I didn’t see any actual tortoises in the wild there, at least I get to hang out with captive tortoises every day at work: we have two, named BB and Amelia. BB is a little guy, but Amelia is a big, beautiful adult gopher tortoise, and she’s kind of our mascot.
Gopher tortoises are listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN red list, but only its western population has any federal protection, listed as “threatened” by the Fish & Wildlife Service. Their threats include habitat loss and being hit by cars. What’s really cool about them, and what makes them a keystone species, are the burrows they dig, which provide shelter to numerous other animal species.
Tortoises, of course, have a reputation for being slow – we all heard the story of the tortoise and the hare when we were kids. Amelia, however, is very active. I once witnessed her chasing and harassing my boss’s dog, and today when I was photographing her she tried to nip at my bare toes and moved around so much that most of my attempts at close-ups turned out like this:
Birdchick, one of my blogging idols, occasionally posts what she calls “cleansing” photos of cute birds as a way to de-stress. Well, after a long week at work, this is my Saturday cleansing tortoise.