February Strolling Science Seminar: Gopher Tortoises

Get ready to meet one of Florida’s most important keystone species – the Gopher Tortoise – at CREW’s Strolling Science Seminar (SSS) on Saturday, February 7th at the CREW Cypress Dome Trails . This exciting strolling seminar – The Gopher Tortoise: How protecting one species actually protects hundreds – will be led by FGCU biology instructor, Dr. John Herman. Registration is required, sign up here.

john herman with gopher tortoise
Dr. John Herman works with gopher tortoises

Dr. John Herman’s enthusiasm for reptiles is contagious and his first-hand knowledge is vast. Don’t miss this chance to learn science from one of the best.

Gopher Tortoises are called ecosystem engineers because they fundamentally change the environment where they live by digging burrows. Their burrows provide critical habitat for over 300 other species. We will investigate these burrows and get to know many of these co-inhabitants. Whether you love reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals, insects, or plants; this seminar will have it all, thanks to the mighty Gopher Tortoise!

Gopher Tortoise

What to wear/bring: Wear comfortable outdoor walking clothes and closed-toed shoes. Please bring water to drink and to use to rinse hands. Also please avoid putting sunscreen, lotion, hand sanitizer, or any other chemical on the palms of your hands during this session.

Are there age limits for this event? Yes – this walking seminar is for adults, ages 18 and over.

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event? No. We like to conserve resources, so print tickets will not be issued. Just check in with the CREW staff when you arrive.

Rare Amelanistic Pygmy Rattlesnakes Born at CREW

Earlier this summer a rare occurrence was discovered at CREW. A dusky pygmy rattlesnake gave birth to six offspring, three of which were amelanistic – meaning they lack the dark pigment (melanin) in their skin. According to Kevin Enge , a herp expert with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, this is extremely rare and to have three of the six born amelanistic is quite amazing. No amelanistic pygmies have ever been documented before in Florida.

It is likely these three would not survive long in the wild because their rare coloration makes them easy to see and more vulnerable as prey. Below is a picture of the adult (with typical coloration) and one of the three amelanistic juveniles. Pretty cool, huh?

The location and the time of discovery were kept secret until after the young dispersed in order to prevent collectors from trying to find and collect them to sell. We assume that nature has taken its course, because after about five days the snakes had all moved on and haven’t been seen since early July.

Juvenile amelanistic pygmy rattlesnake
Juvenile amelanistic pygmy rattlesnake



Adult dusky_pygmy_rattlesnake
“Momma” Adult dusky pygmy rattlesnake


Snake Resources

Below are additional resources and information related to snakes for our Strolling Science Seminar participants.

The CREW Strolling Science Seminars are supported in part by a Public Outreach Grant from the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP). The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program is a partnership to protect estuaries in southwest Florida from Venice to Estero Bay.

Return to 2012-2013 Strolling Science Seminar page.

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