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Gopher Tortoise Day at Landmark Park

Matt Boster

Viewed: 895

Posted by: Matt Boster
Date: Mar 24 2017 8:21 AM

Join Landmark Park as we celebrate Gopher Tortoise Day on April 8 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants will get to meet our very own resident Gopher Tortoise, participate in tortoise crafts and activities, learn ways to help conserve their habitat, and even what to do if you see a Gopher Tortoise crossing the road. With this newly launched effort, we hope to highlight the importance of this keystone species.

Gopher Tortoises (Gopherus plyphemus) are known for their extraordinary digging skills and are one of only three tortoise species that are made for digging. The front limbs are flattened, almost shovel-like, and they have stumpy, elephant-like hind legs. The burrows they dig can be more than 50 ft long and are only wide enough for them to turn around. 

Did you know that over 350 other species of wildlife depend on the Gopher Tortoise burrow for survival? Species such as the Burrowing Owl, Florida Mouse, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Indigo Snake and Gopher Frog can all be found living in a Gopher Tortoise burrow. The unique relationship between these species makes the Gopher Tortoise an important “keystone species”. Unfortunately, loss of habitat is the main threat to the survival of this special tortoise, therefore, in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, they are listed as a Federally Threatened Species and it is against the law to destroy their burrow or harm the tortoise in any way. The gopher tortoise lives 40 - 60 years, but doesn’t reach reproduction age until age 18 to 20 years old making for slow population growth, and, as their numbers decrease, so do those of the supported species. 

Landmark Park is a 135-acre natural science and history museum located on the outskirts of Dothan.  Features of the park include nature trails, a planetarium, playground, picnic areas, an elevated boardwalk, a turn-of-the-century farmstead with sheep, chickens, cows and other farm animals and crops typical of an 1890s farm.  In addition, the park includes a drugstore with operating soda fountain, one-room school, general store, and historic church, all preserved from the surrounding area. The park is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.  Regular admission is $4 adults, $3 for children and is free for park members and children age 2 and under.  The park is located on U.S. Hwy 431 North, three miles north of Dothan’s Ross Clark Circle.

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