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Gopher tortoise admitted to CROW may be largest on record

December 6, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

State officials believe that a male gopher tortoise admitted to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Nov. 25 may be bigger than the current largest gopher tortoise on record.

"The current record tortoise was documented near Labelle in Hendry County in 2016," Kelly O'Connor, a gopher tortoise conservation biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said. "It weighed 14.5 kilograms and had a straight-line carapace - a tortoise's upper shell - length of 42.7 centimeters."

The male tortoise admitted to CROW tipped the scales at 15.26 kilograms and measured 44 centimeters, according to veterinary staff. The tortoise was rescued in Koreshan State Park when rangers noticed it was acting lethargic and appeared to have diarrhea.

Article Photos

Left to right, a Florida box turtle, another gopher tortoise patient and the potential record-size gopher tortoise patient admitted to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife.

"He is definitely the biggest one I have ever seen," Dr. Heather Barron, CROW's medical and research director, said. "His body condition is really poor right now, so he's quite thin compared to a healthy tortoise. A healthy weight for him would be even higher."

CROW admits between 60 and 75 gopher tortoise patients each year, mostly due to encounters with vehicles on roadways.

Although a tortoise's size does not correlate directly to its age, Barron estimates the tortoise to be at least 50 years of age, possibly older. He was likely able to reach such a size, in part, due to the protected habitat where he resides within the state park.

Gopher tortoises are listed as a threatened species in Florida, with habitat destruction and fragmentation being a major factor that contributes to their vulnerability.



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