Herpetofauna - One Life's List

Gopher Tortoise
Gopherus polyphemus

Jasper Co., South Carolina.  May 24, 1998


We were still basking in the glow of our first Eastern Diamondback, found crossing the road about an hour earlier.  It was late afternoon, and the sun was starting to slide towards the horizon.  We passed a 'clear-cut' area off to the right, and Ken asked to stop and take a picture of it.  Steve, Rick and I waited in the Blazer while Ken set up his tripod and wide angle lens to shoot the ugly remains of a timber harvest.  "Hey!" he shouted, hearing crackling and crunching noises in the brush on the shoulder of the road.  By the time the rest of us got out, he was hefting a large Gopher Tortoise!  We did the 'Diamondback Dance' and hour earlier, now we were doing the Gopher Tortoise Dance!  What a beauty - a full size male.  We all set up cameras and grabbed some shots, the Gopher doing his best to get away; his limbs were incredibly strong!  We let him go and he trundled off, away from the shoulder into the pine woods.  As we found out later, the land he crawled out into was a preserve set aside for Gopher Tortoises, rare and fiercely protected here in South Carolina.  There is something to be said for serendipity, and Ken said we could no longer harass him for his frequent picture stops!
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