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Protecting the Gopher Tortoise

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Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. If it's safe to turn around, when I see a turtle crossing the road, I try to get it across.   My rescues are mostly box turtles. But we have two Department of Natural Resources Heritage Trust sites dedicated to protect the endangered gopher tortoise populations. The Tillman Sand Ridge Heritage Preserve and Aiken County Gopher Tortoise Heritage Preserve have the correct sand types to allow these animals to construct burrows, usually six to eight feet deep and 15 to 30 feet long where the structures provide temperature moderation and shelter for not just these reptiles but for over 300 other species that use them as refuge. Accordingly, the gopher tortoise is considered a keystone species.  You can visit these sites where frequent prescribed burns maintain the desired long-leaf ecosystem, but don’t expect to see these animals – most of their time is spent underground.

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Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.