The Gopher tortoise has a unique place in Florida natural history and folklore. Many local residents, both native and immigrant, have stories about these burrowing reptiles that inhabit the Everglades. While there are many accounts of their presence in Florida proper, it appears that Gopher tortoises also occur within the boundaries of the greater Florida panhandle.
One of the best-known accounts of Gopher tortoise facts is the account of Hemanault and his hunting party being eaten alive by a massive burrowing tortoise. Hemanault, a well-known hunter and traveler, led a small party on a hunting and fishing trip near St. Petersburg in Florida. During this excursion he encountered an unusual pair of red eared Gopher tortoises. These creatures, which were approximately one to two feet long, were hanging around the water and feeding on algae. Hemanault immediately recognized what he was seeing as a possible hazard to his party and immediately turned in the direction of the water in which the tortoises were hanging out.
As the group continued to trek into the forest more of the red eared Gopher tortoises came out of hiding and began to perch and bark at them. Their chattering increased in volume and even became more disjointed, until finally Hemanault turned to face his uneasy companions. It was at this moment that he noticed a thin, hair-less arm protruding from one of the eared Gopher tortoises. It was covered with a hard shell, which was wrapped tightly around its neck. Within seconds the frightened group noticed that the arm had begun to shake violently, but it was unable to move any further.
Hemanault quickly grabbed one of the eared Gopher tortoises and gently placed it in his carrier. He quickly realized that this particular species of tortoise is rarely seen anywhere in the state of Florida. He carefully unhooked the arm from the shell and allowed it to defenselessly hang inside his carrier. All of the other tortoises in the group were treated very gently and gave him high praises for his humane treatment of these defenseless creatures. They all enjoyed his kindness so much that they refused to pose for pictures with Hemanault following that experience.
The next Gopher tortoise Florida sighting occurred at an even closer proximity, as one of the male tortoises attempted to mate with a female that had been hanging around the area for some time. Unfortunately, the female soon lost her grip and the poor tortoise was quickly left hanging lifeless in the sand. The rest of the troop noticed that something was wrong and immediately began to look for their missing friends. Hemanault and the rest of the guys arrived just in time to save the poor tortoise before it even hit the sand. Everyone was very happy that none of the Gopher tortoises ended up dead or dismembered during the ordeal.
It wasn’t until later on that those who witnessed the accident took the time to make note of the Gopher tortoise facts. The poor tortoise had obviously been struggling in the sand, trying to get free of the endless grasp of the sand deep within. Some witnesses reported that they saw the poor Gopher tortoise trying to break free by waving its tail, but unfortunately for the poor tortoise, it was already too late. These Gopher tortoise facts are truly amazing because it shows just how close these animals are to our side, but of course, they are still there.