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How to Identify a Gopher Tortoise Burrow

Gopher tortoise burrows are often confused with other animal burrows. A burrow's appearance can also change depending on how long ago the burrow was used by a tortoise. Use our gopher tortoise burrow identification guide to learn how to identify gopher tortoise burrows.

Gopher Tortoise peaking out from vegetation in its burrow. (Gopher tortoise is on left side of photo)

Gopher Tortoise Burrow Classifications

Active Gopher Tortoise Burrows-Protected/Potentially Occupied

Active gopher tortoise burrows have half-moon shaped entrances with soil spread around at the opening. We call this soil the burrow apron. The size and shape of the apron can vary. Because of recent use, the aprons of active burrows have loose soil and gopher tortoise tracks. The entrance will gently slope. The size of the entrance can range from 2.5-15 inches wide based on the size of the tortoise that dug the burrow.

Inactive Gopher Tortoise Burrows-Protected/Potentially Occupied

Inactive gopher tortoise burrows still have a half-moon shape to the burrow entrance. However, debris like leaves or pine needles start to fill in around the entrance and on top of the apron and the soil is hard-packed. These burrows lack tortoise tracks and other signs of tortoise use. Occupied burrows may appear inactive during winter months when tortoises spend more time in their burrows.

Abandoned Gopher Tortoise Burrows

Abandoned burrows appear dilapidated or unused for long periods of times. The entrances are partially or completely collapsed and are filled with leaves or soil. Due to this, the entrances no longer have a half-moon shape.

Other Animal Burrows

Other Florida animals dig burrows that are regularly confused with gopher tortoise burrows. In most cases, burrows with half-moon shaped entrances are gopher tortoises, while mammal and bird burrows typically have circular entrances.

Round burrow entrance with steep slope at entrance

Armadillo Burrows

Armadillo burrows have oval or circle shaped entrances. Occasionally they have mounds of soil near the burrow entrance. The entrance will be steeply sloped.

Burrow with oval entrance and mound of soil at entrance.

Burrowing Owl Burrows-Protected

The protected burrows of burrowing owls have roughly circular entrances about 5” wide and 3.5” wide. They often have a mound of excavated soil at the entrance.

Burrow with steep round entrance and a large mound of excavated dirt from digging fox

Fox Burrows

Fox burrows have round or oval-shaped entrances. They often have a large mound of excavated soil near the entrance.