The Gopher Tortoise is one of the most important species of the Longleaf Pine ecosystem of the southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain, and the species is critical to the survival of the Eastern Indigo Snake. Gopher Tortoises dig extensive burrows in sandy soil which offer refuge to Eastern Indigo Snakes and over 300 other species, including many species of insects, quail, mice (including the rare Florida mouse), rabbits, burrowing owls, Florida Pine Snakes and the elusive Gopher Frog. These burrows typically reach 15 to 30 feet in length and 6 to 10 feet in depth, although some burrows may be up to 40 feet long. Because of the vast array of cohabitants that use the burrows, the Gopher Tortoise has earned the title of “Keystone Species.”

Gopher Tortoise populations are declining throughout much of the species’ range. The Gopher Tortoise is federally listed as Threatened in western Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, and it is currently under review for federal listing in eastern Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

Because of the importance of Gopher Tortoises to the health of the Longleaf Pine ecosystem—and the Eastern Indigo Snake in particular—the Orianne Society has placed a high priority on ensuring the health and well-being of Gopher Tortoise populations on the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve (OISP) in Telfair County, Georgia. The OISP is a very significant site with respect to the conservation of Gopher Tortoises, as it protects a series of extensive dry sandhill habitats adjacent to Horse Creek which provide prime Gopher Tortoise habitat.

 

 

RELATED INFORMATION

Altamaha River Corridor

The Altamaha River Corridor has extensive sandhills and tracts of Longleaf Pine and includes the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve.

Spotted Turtle

Complementing our efforts to protect the Gopher Tortoise, we are directing our efforts toward the conservation of this small, mostly-aquatic species.

Eastern Indigo Snake

As one of the largest snakes in North America, this majestic nonvenomous animal lives up to its name, "Emperor of the Forest."