Species Profile
Environmental Conservation Online System

Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)

Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Testudinidae

Listing Status:    and  

General Information

The gopher tortoise is a large, (shell 15 to 37 centimeters or 5.9 to 14.6 inches long) dark-brown to grayish-black terrestrial turtle with elephantine hind feet, shovel-like forefeet, and a gular projection beneath the head on the yellowish, hingeless plastron or undershell (Ernst and Barbour 1972). The sex of individual turtles can usually be determined by shell dimensions. A male turtle has a greater degree of lower shell concavity, and a longer gular projection. However, the sex of tortoises at maturity size is difficult to determine (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 199O).

Population detail

The FWS is currently monitoring the following populations of the Gopher tortoise 

Map of Species occurrence

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Map Image Map of Species occurrence Map of Species occurrence
Map of Species occurrence Map of Species occurrence

This map represents our best available information about where a species is currently known to or or is believed to occur; however, it should NOT be used as an official species list for Section 7 Consultation purposes. To obtain an official species list for this purpose, please visit the Information, Planning, and Conservation (IPaC) System (click here: http://ecos.fws.gov/ipac)

  • Population location: Wherever found west of Mobile and Tombigbee Rivers in AL, MS, and LA
    Listing status:  Threatened
    • States/US Territories in which this population is known to or is believed to occur:  Alabama , Louisiana , Mississippi
    • US Counties in which this population is known to or is believed to occur:  View All
    • USFWS Refuges in which this population is known to occur:  BOGUE CHITTO NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, MISSISSIPPI SANDHILL CRANE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
  • Population location: eastern
    Listing status:  Candidate
    • States/US Territories in which this population is known to or is believed to occur:  Alabama , Florida , Georgia , South Carolina
    • US Counties in which this population is known to or is believed to occur:  View All
    • Countries in which the this population is known to occur:  United States
Current Listing Status Summary
Status Date Listed Lead Region Where Listed
07/07/1987 Southeast Region (Region 4) W of of Mobile/Tombigbee Rs.
Southeast Region (Region 4) eastern

» Candidate Information

Current Candidate Status

Listing Priority: 8
Magnitude:  Moderate to Low
Immediacy: Imminent
Taxonomy: Species
Species Assessment: 
Candidate Notice of Review Documents (Showing 5 of 8: view all)
Date Citation Page Title
11/22/2013 77 FR 70103 70162 Review of Native Species That are Candidates for Listing as Endangered or Threatened; Annual Notice of Findings on Resubmitted Petitions; Annual Description of Progress on Listing Actions
11/21/2012 77 FR 69993 70060 Review of Native Species That Are Candidates for Listing as Endangered or Threatened; Annual Notice of Findings on Resubmitted Petitions; Annual Description of Progress on Listing Actions
10/26/2011 76 FR 66370 66439 Review of Native Species That Are Candidates for Listing as Endangered or Threatened; Annual Notice of Findings on Resubmitted Petitions; Annual Description of Progress on Listing Actions
11/15/1994 59 FR 58982 59028 ETWP; Animal Candidate Review for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species.
11/21/1991 56 FR 58804 58836 ETWP; Animal Candidate Review for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species; 56 FR 58804 58836

» Federal Register Documents

Most Recent Federal Register Documents (Showing 5 of 17: view all)
Date Citation Page Title
11/22/2013 77 FR 70103 70162 Review of Native Species That are Candidates for Listing as Endangered or Threatened; Annual Notice of Findings on Resubmitted Petitions; Annual Description of Progress on Listing Actions
11/21/2012 77 FR 69993 70060 Review of Native Species That Are Candidates for Listing as Endangered or Threatened; Annual Notice of Findings on Resubmitted Petitions; Annual Description of Progress on Listing Actions
10/26/2011 76 FR 66370 66439 Review of Native Species That Are Candidates for Listing as Endangered or Threatened; Annual Notice of Findings on Resubmitted Petitions; Annual Description of Progress on Listing Actions
07/27/2011 76 FR 45130 45162 12-Month Finding on a Petition To List the Gopher Tortoise as Threatened in the Eastern Portion of Its Range
04/09/2010 75 FR 18233 18234 5-Year Status Reviews of 10 Southeastern Species; Notice of initiation of reviews; request for information

» Recovery

Recovery Plan Information Search
Current Recovery Plan(s)
Date Title Plan Action Status Plan Status
12/26/1990 Gopher Tortoise View Implementation Progress Final
Other Recovery Documents (Showing 1 of 1)
Date Citation Page Title Document Type
04/09/2010 75 FR 18233 18234 5-Year Status Reviews of 10 Southeastern Species; Notice of initiation of reviews; request for information
  • Notice 5-year Review, Initiation
  • » Critical Habitat

    No critical habitat rules have been published for the Gopher tortoise.

    » Conservation Plans

    Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP) (learn more) (Showing 5 of 10: view all)
    HCP Plan Summaries
    Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners
    Church of God by Faith
    City of Palm Bay
    Johns Island Golf Club (58th Avenue Expansion)
    Lamar County School Board
    Safe Harbor Agreements (SHA): (learn more) (Showing 1 of 1)
    SHA Plan Summaries
    Martin Branch Woodland Tract (Lambert) SHA
    Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCA): (learn more) (Showing 1 of 1)
    CCA Plan Summaries
    Gopher Tortoise Candidate Conservation Agreement

    » Petitions

    Most Recent Petition Findings (Showing 5 of 6: view all)
    Date Citation Page Title Finding
    11/21/2012 77 FR 69993 70060 Review of Native Species That Are Candidates for Listing as Endangered or Threatened; Annual Notice of Findings on Resubmitted Petitions; Annual Description of Progress on Listing Actions
  • Notice 12 month petition finding, Warranted but precluded
  • Notice CNOR
  • 10/26/2011 76 FR 66370 66439 Review of Native Species That Are Candidates for Listing as Endangered or Threatened; Annual Notice of Findings on Resubmitted Petitions; Annual Description of Progress on Listing Actions
  • Notice 12 month petition finding, Warranted but precluded
  • Notice CNOR
  • 07/27/2011 76 FR 45130 45162 12-Month Finding on a Petition To List the Gopher Tortoise as Threatened in the Eastern Portion of Its Range
  • Notice 12 month petition finding, Warranted but precluded
  • 09/09/2009 74 FR 46401 46406 90-Day Finding on a Petition to List the Eastern Population of the Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) as Threatened
  • Notice 90-day Petition Finding, Substantial
  • 01/09/1986 51 FR 996 999 Findings on Pending Petitions & Description of Progress on Listing Actions; 51 FR 996-999
  • Notice 12 month petition finding, Warranted but precluded
  • » Life History

    No Life History information has been entered into this system for this species.

    » Other Resources

    NatureServe Explorer Species Reports -- NatureServe Explorer is a source for authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals and ecological communtities of the U.S and Canada. NatureServe Explorer provides in-depth information on rare and endangered species, but includes common plants and animals too. NatureServe Explorer is a product of NatureServe in collaboration with the Natural Heritage Network.

    ITIS Reports -- ITIS (the Integrated Taxonomic Information System) is a source for authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

    Last updated: October 26, 2014