Gopher Tortoise, "Polly "
Gopherus polyphemus

During the spring of 1994, Polly, a female gopher tortoise was brought to St. Francis Wildlife after someone's dog had mistaken her for a "chew toy." She lost her right foreleg. From her size, -- a nine-inch long carapace or upper shell -- we decided that she was about ten years old at that time.

The Game & Fresh Water Fish Commission has designated the gopher tortoise as a Species of Special Concern. Because of habitat destruction, their numbers are decreasing. They are known as a keystone or "umbrella species" because the long burrow they dig provides a home for about 300 other species, from the indigo snake to the gopher frog.

Because Polly cannot dig a burrow with just one front foot, she is a permanent guest of St. Francis Wildlife -- munching dandelions, yellow squash, romaine lettuce, apples, grated sweet potatoes, and strawberries (her favorite foods) and basking in the sunshine. During cold winter days, she lives in a heated indoor enclosure.

 St. Francis Wildlife Association