The Gopher Tortoise: A Species in Decline

Gopher tortoises occur in upland habitats throughout the coastal plain of the southeastern United States, with most being found in north-central Florida and southern Georgia. Their numbers have declined range-wide, but have been severely reduced at the western and northern part of their range. Gopher tortoise populations along Florida’s southeast coast and the Florida Panhandle also are greatly reduced from their historic numbers.

Legal Status

Gopher tortoises are afforded different levels of legal protection throughout their range. A permit is always required to possess, study, or relocate gopher tortoises. In the 1980s, Florida outlawed the harvest of tortoises, banned the use of gasoline to collect rattlesnakes from gopher tortoise burrows, and banned tortoise races. The legal status of the gopher tortoise in Florida and other states where it occurs is listed below. The eastern range of the population is currently under Federal review.

State Status
Georgia State listed as a Threatened Species
Florida State listed as a Threatened Species
South Carolina State listed as a Threatened Species
Mississippi Federally listed as a Threatened species
Louisiana Federally listed as a Threatened species
Alabama State listed as a Threatened Species; Populations west of the Tombigbee and Mobile Rivers are federally listed