This year, we were fortunate enough to spot several gopher land tortoise. Our first was along the roadside on Manasota Key. We were headed to Stump Pass Beach our favorite spot on the key. Unfortunately, we couldn't stop to take a photo. The road is narrow with a 25 mph speed limit & we had a string of vehicles behind us.
It's a one mile walk from the entrance of Stump Pass to the southern most point of Manasota Key. We walked the beach looking for shark's teeth & other sea treasures. The wind was at our backs so we didn't realize how breezy it was until we turned to head back. Whoa! We decided to take the nature trail back which follows along the bayside of the key to shelter us from the wind. It was on our walk back that we hit the jackpot. A gopher land tortoise next to its den.
Gopher land tortoises are native to the southeastern region of the United States. Only 5 tortoise species are native to the U.S. and gopher land tortoises are the only tortoise found east of the Mississippi River. They are protected in Florida & listed as "Vulnerable" on the Endangered Species List. In Florida, all gopher tortoises must be safely relocated before any land disturbance is allowed to take place. Land owners are required by law to obtain a permit before doing so.
There are many protected animals & native plants in Florida. The state does a great job alerting the public to their presence. We found signage posted at every park & pubic nature space we visited. Florida also includes educational information on their signage. We love that!
Gopher land tortoise are considered a "Keystone Species." A keystone species is any organism that helps to define an ecosystem. Gopher land tortoise play a crucial role within their ecosystem. It's mainly due to their dens. Many species rely on gopher land tortoise dens for their own survival.
Gopher tortoise burrow as far as 50' into the ground and their dens may be up to 10' deep! These burrows protect the tortoise from heat, sunstroke & bush fires. It's quite common for gopher tortoise to share their dens with snakes. In fact, over 350 different species of animals are known to share gopher land tortoise dens. During bush fire events, these burrows are essential for the survival of the ecosystem.
Gopher land tortoise tend to feed within 160' of their burrow. They forage on low growing plants such as broadleaf & wire grasses, gopher apples and legumes. Gopher tortoise average 9-11" in length but can grow up to 15" long. Their average lifespan is 40-60 years in the wild. Gopher land tortoise can live 90+ years in captivity.
Breeding season runs March to October. Male gopher land tortoise sexually mature within 9-12 years of age while females require 10-21 years to reach sexual maturity. Females lay their clutch of eggs between the months of May & July. Their eggs are about the size of pingpong balls. Baby tortoise emerge in August through November after 80 to 100 days of incubation. Adult gopher land tortoise provide NO maternal care to their young.
Several days later we were lucky enough to spot another gopher land tortoise while walking to Manasota Beach. He was very close to the footpath but hard to spot in the dune grass. I might have walked right past him had Jason not pointed him out. The tortoise was busy digging in the sand & paid no attention to us. We were able to get several great shots. From a safe distance, of course!
I wondered if the tortoise was working on a new burrow or just digging the beach like me? We'll have to check this spot for a tortoise den next year. We shot a few seconds of video showing the tortoise in action before we continued on to the beach. Check out the clips below.
Later that night I used our photos & video clips of the gopher land tortoise to create my very first TikTok video. We're up to 692 views so far with 7 likes. Well on our way to TikTok fame... at a tortoise pace, of course!
Stay tuned. We have more nature & wildlife posts coming soon.
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At first glance Brohard Beach in Venice looks like most Florida Gulf Coast beaches. Turquoise water, sunshine & blue skies, clean sandy beaches filled with seashells, shark's teeth, cool birds & plenty of beachgoers. But there's something special about Brohard Beach that makes visiting truly unique. It tops our list of favorite beaches.
Access to Brohard Beach is through Brohard Paw Park. The park is a large fenced-in play area divided into two sections for large & small dogs. Brohard Beach & Paw Park is open daily from 7:00 am until dusk. All breeds are welcome, admission is free and so is the parking!
Double gates at the rear of Brohard Paw Park accesses the boardwalk to the beach. It's a short but scenic walk down a wide concrete sidewalk to the wooden boardwalk. The walkway is flanked by a small lake on one side & swampland on the other so there's a good chance you will see wildlife. Don't worry, everyone is safe within the fencing. We came prepared but if you decide to pop in on a whim there are plenty of trash cans & doggy-doo bags conveniently located here.
We didn't take any photos of Brohard Paw Park. Our hands were always full of leashes, beach gear & two extremely excited (or tired) puppies. But we all agree, the paw park is an awesome spot for families to enjoy. There is a pavilion, benches & picnic tables for humans. A drinking fountain, bathing station & plenty of room to run for the furry kids. Dogs are allowed off-leash once inside the fencing!
The pier in background is the Venice Municipal Fishing Pier, a 700 foot pier that offers free fishing without a license to all Florida residents & guests. It's located on Venice Beach in front of Sharky's on the Pier. More on that later in another post.
Tucker & Roxie are best buddies!
So, imagine my surprise when our 2 bonded Boxers found new friends to play with at the beach & completely ignored each other! Upon arrival Tucker wanted to walk the full length of the beach to greet everyone. After he scoped out the scene, Tucker would choose the biggest female on the beach & try to goad her into playing. Tucker befriended a huge Great Dane on our first visit. He went crazy over her! In the video clips below Tucker makes friends with a female Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Roxie wasn't as picky with her playmates. She didn't bother to walk the beach. The first person or puppy she spotted with a ball was her new best friend. Period, end of story. Male, female, person or pup. Roxie did not care. She was going to push her way into the ballgame & play!
Brohard Beach & Paw Park both have a really great vibe with a diverse mix of people & pets. All were friendly, relaxed & having the best time playing together. We took the kids to the beach several times during our month-long stay. It was fun for our whole family. No hassles, long lines or cranky children. I think it's time for Disney to give up the title. Brohard Beach is surely the happiest place on earth!
If you're familiar with Boxers you know they are HIGH ENERGY dogs that require a lot of exercise & attention. They prefer to spend time with their people & they want to be included in everything! Boxers are also very expressive with their emotions. They tend to get their nose out of joint if they feel they're being left out of the fun. They will look for mischief when bored. It's not much of a problem at home but when you're staying in someone else's fabulous home...it's something to consider.
Brohard Beach proved to be the perfect solution for us. When Jason & I wanted to go somewhere without our dogs, we'd start our day at Brohard Beach. It only took an hour or so to wear our kids out completely. Once home they would happily sleep the day away allowing Jason & I time to enjoy other activities.
If you're considering a fur family vacation, check out the the Englewood/Venice area. Several resorts, VRBO & AirB&B rentals on Manasota Key allow pets although some do have weight or breed restrictions so be sure to check before booking.
Taking our furry kids on vacation was a great choice for us.
We had a wonderful time made even better because we were together.
We parked a block off Dearborn & started walking with our cameras in hand. We entered the show near a parking lot full of Corvettes. I was eyeballing the cool, old red Corvette above when a man approached me saying "Aww, you don't like that old piece of junk, do you?" He hustled me over to his much newer Corvette insisting I get in & check it out. He wouldn't take no for an answer. He was awfully proud of his car so I didn't want to burst his bubble but... I still prefer the old model.
We wandered around admiring all of the cars on display. We took a ton of photos but I doubt we were able to catch them all. The street was lined with cars, the parking lots were filled and quite a few cars cruised Dearborn revving their engines.
Which cool car would you choose for a cruise?
You Know You're a Landscaper When...
You attend a cool car show & take photos of sod.
Jason & I couldn't get over the condition of this recently installed sod. It was so dry you could almost hear it gasping for water & not an irrigation line in site. OMG those seams! And they're parking on it too?!?!
Danny's Cream Pies
Where Cars, Desserts & Craziness Collide
Creepy Doll Christmas Carol Hearse?
I wish he would've parked with the other cars on display.
I have so many questions!
It wasn't in our plans but we did end up purchasing a vehicle while we were in Florida. We stopped at a yard sale between Venice & Englewood one afternoon. She was parked at the very back of the garage. A bargain we just couldn't pass up. She's a classic & a real beauty.