Gopher Tortoise Council

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Welcome To The Gopher Tortoise Council!


2014 meeting theme: Land management and Priority Species Conservation in the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem


The GTC 2014 meeting TENTATIVE date October 16-18 in Albany, GA at Chehaw Park   

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** The Minimum Viable Population Report has been released.  

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The Gopher Tortoise Council (GTC) was formed in 1978 by a group of biologists and others concerned about the range-wide decline of the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). The Council offers professional advice for management, conservation, and protection of gopher tortoises; encourages the study of the life history, ecology, and management of gopher tortoises and other upland species; conducts active public information and conservation education programs, and seeks effective protection of the gopher tortoise and other upland species throughout the southeastern United States.

Approximate range of the gopher tortoise

The gopher tortoise is a species in decline and warrants additional protection rangewide on both a state and federal level. It is a species that lives a long life, reaches sexual maturity at over ten years of age, produces relatively small clutches, experiences low recruitment, and suffers from an upper respiratory tract disease, high levels of predation and loss of habitat. Severe losses in the western half of its range have resulted in the gopher tortoise being listed as Federally Threatened in Louisiana, Mississippi, and western Alabama.

-George Heinrich


The Gopher Tortoise Council was formed in 1978 by a group of southeastern biologists and other citizens concerned with the decline of the gopher tortoise. The goals of the Council are: (1) to offer professional advice for management, conservation, and protection of gopher tortoises; (2) to encourage the study of the life history, ecology, behavior, physiology, and management of gopher tortoises and other upland species; (3) to conduct active public information and conservation education programs; (4) to seek effective protection of the gopher tortoise and other upland species throughout the southeastern United States.

The Council supports environmental education programs and through the generous donations of many of our members, has contributed funds for the purchase of critical habitat for the gopher tortoise and other upland species. The Council has contributed to the financial support of research projects involving reproduction, home range, and feeding studies in the gopher tortoise, ecology of the striped newt, and gopher frog. If you would like to become a member of the Gopher Tortoise Council, please print out and complete the membership form and return it to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Original text by: Catherine Puckett and Richard Franz. Edited by Joan Berish and Jessica McGuire. 
First published by the GOPHER TORTOISE COUNCIL in 1980; revised in 1988, 1991, 2000, 2012.

Become a Member of the GTC

Please download the membership form below. We appreciate your support!

Please make checks payable to the Gopher Tortoise Council. The Gopher Tortoise Council is a nonprofit organization and all contributions are tax deductible.

Gopher Tortoise Council
c/o Florida Museum of Natural History
P.O. Box 117800
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611

Membership Type

Ode To Joan Berish

We all need a voice, I say that once more,

For this cute little tortoise to even the score.

Now, the story I’ll tell is all set in rhyme,

But, a poet I’m not…you’ll see that in time.


It was back in the 70’s, when I was born.

Hatched from an egg the sun had kept warm.

My mom and my dad, nowhere to be found,

no problem, I thought, that they’re not around.

So, I left my mom’s apron as my siblings had done,

No strings to hold me, I was born to have fun!

Gopherus  girls, I was ready to chase,

Though I pursued them all at a leisurely pace.

This life is great!  I thought the day-long,

Till one morning I sensed that something was wrong.

There were raccoons, coyotes, and raptors, oh my!

So, a burrow I’d dig and stay safely inside.

Now other than females, please leave me alone;

but, here come mice, crickets…and indigos full-grown!

And the bigger, and better, and more burrows I dug,

Critters kept coming, snug as bugs in a rug!

So, I got fed up and climbed out of my hole,

But, only to fall in a bucket… “oh, my poor soul!”

I sat there for hours till I heard someone say,

“I got me a big one, and he won’t get away!”

She turned me all sideways and then upside down,

measured and poked me and drilled a hole ‘round.

She tagged me a number and that was OK

But, the blood that she took, well, that put me away.

When I finally ‘came to’, it seemed a bad dream,

but the hole on my butt made it real it did seem.

I heard them say Joan: Joan Berish her name,

‘Biologist her title, Gopher harassment her game.’

Now, the number she gave me and wrote in her book,

Was all-right by me, as the hole in my scute.

But, I continued to wander, as I said at the first;

Missed in Joan’s data for years, and was cursed.

No, I didn’t stay “put” as Joan thought that I must.

“Big deal!” thought I as I continued to lust,

For the girl of my dreams, a gopher so lovely,

Outside of Grove Park, and not of this colony.

I traveled toward Phifer and Cross Creek, I think,

Not far from Lochloosa; still Joan’s missing link.

Till back to my birthplace to visit Joan’s study,

A surprise it will be when Joan sees her “old buddy.”

But, then when Joan found me she was mad as could be!

I’m calling him Dufus! (…Oh no that can’t be).

Why not, Bad Boy or Bandit, Rocky or Sam…

Big Guy or Dude, or maybe The Man?

“Dufus” they laughed, gophers pointing their forefeet,

So sad was this gopher, I could not even eat.

Well, I’ll show those biologists…Joan and her friends,

She thinks I’m a dufus, well, we’ll see one in the end.

So, I packed up my stuff and moved with a friend,

to a farm down the road where Joan couldn’t get in.

Still haunted by the nickname Joan gave me that day,

I’m Dufus the Goofus, it won’t go away!

So, from Dufus to Youfus, Joan, retire if you must,

I’ll forgive you one day, but I’m not in a rush!


-         Robert S. Hicks    2013

Content Copyright© 2001 - 2012 Gopher Tortoise Council, a nonprofit and tax-exempt organization (ID#59-2010727) under IRS Code Section 501(c)(3). All contributions tax deductible.