Since I arrived at the Okefenokee NWR, I’ve wanted to see a gopher tortoise. They are an endangered land tortoise that digs a ten foot deep and 30-40 foot long tunnel under the ground as its home. It’s a ‘keystone’ species, as more than 300 other insects, animals and reptiles use its home as well. Today was the day!
While roving this afternoon, I chose to drive down one of the sandy back roads of the refuge and low and behold saw a tortoise crossing the road. By the time I could get out of the car with my camera, it had made its way into the woods at the side of the road. All I was able to get was a going away shot or two. I was amazed at the speed with which this tortoise could move. Now I wonder about that story about the tortoise and the hare. See the way those back feet are flying?
It stopped briefly, and I tried to creep up on it to get a better shot. Looking ahead, I stepped on a branch on the forest floor that snapped and the tortoise literally flew down its hole. Nuts! I advanced and looked down the hole, but it had gone way below being spotted. With the warming weather, I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a better shot before I leave.
As I returned to the vehicle, I was able to find its tracks as it had made its way across the road. I found the indentations in the sand from its shell and clawed feet most interesting. Two parallel lines and scratches leading from one side of the road to the other. This tortoise sure knew where it was going. And what a hiding place it is! No way I’d reach down that tunnel. One of the other species that uses tortoise tunnels for safety from fires and cold is the rattlesnake. Best to look at these tunnels from afar…
Also with the warming weather, more and more alligators are coming out of their holes. A couple of us here have been wondering what has happened to a young alligator on one of the borrow ditches since two large gators have appeared there. Today I found the 3-4’ youngster way down at the other end of the quarter mile ditch. You can still see its yellow stripes. That yellow will fade as it matures. Nice to find out it wasn’t eaten by one of the bigger fellows.
The yellow-bellied sliders reflectively posed today as well. It was kind of a turtle/tortoise afternoon for me today.
After four days of work, my hip/leg is pretty tired tonight. Happily, I’ve got the next three days off, and my good friend Jack the Bugman will be arriving for a visit. Long time readers know he thinks I’m a cheap date, so I’m trying to dream up a place to go for dinner that’s a couple of steps above Waffle House. That could be a real challenge here in Folkston, GA!
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy