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Gopherus Polyphemus

2011 March 30
by Andy Carter

Gopher tortoise

On this day in 1989, Georgia decreed the Gopher tortoise as its official state reptile. GeorgiaInfo provides links to learn more about our burrowing friend, as well as the text of House Bill No. 531 which amended Code Section 50-3-63 of the Official Code of Georgia. You can view the official state government page for the Gopher tortoise here. And if you are inspired by the majestic photo of our slow-footed honoree, and wish to learn to more, you can visit the (yes, this is real) Gopher Tortoise Council.

WHEREAS, the gopher tortoise (gopherus polyphemus) belongs to a group of land tortoises that originated in North America 60 million years ago, thus making it one of the oldest living species native to Georgia; and

WHEREAS, the gopher tortoise population is scattered throughout the southeastern United States, with most being found in southern Georgia and north central Florida; and

WHEREAS, the gopher tortoise benefits the ecology by digging burrows up to 40 feet long and 10 feet deep which provides year-round shelter from predators and weather for more than three dozen other animal species, including some threatened species; and

WHEREAS, recent studies indicate that the gopher tortoise population is in decline due to mankind’s activities, and that by the year 2000 the gopher tortoise may not exist outside of protected areas; and

WHEREAS, this ancient and ecologically beneficial reptile is deserving of the attention and appreciation of the citizens of this state by designation as the official state reptile.

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  1. April 5, 2011

    We’ve also got a state amphibian (green treefrog), state fish (largemouth bass), and state mammal (right whale). Interestingly though, the Gopher Tortoise – unlike those three – is strictly terrestrial.

    You can see all of Georgia’s state symbols here: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/gasymbol.htm

  2. Maryjane Cloud permalink
    August 20, 2012

    I am estatic. I just found a Gopher Tortoise coming up our dirt driveway. (We live ten miles from the nearest town on 55 acres of hardwoods surrounded by thousands of acres of planted pine.) I popped in here to see if I could find any helpful info.

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