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How the Gopher Tortoise Saves Hundreds of Animals from Wildfire


When wildfires spread through Florida’s Longleaf Pine forest, the animals must find a way to cope. The gopher tortoise digs burrows that provide refuge to hundreds of species of animals.

- [Narrator] A world away from the watery expanse of the Everglades.

On the forest floor, one of its most unassuming residents is out looking for food.

A gopher tortoise.

The open savanna beneath the trees makes it easy to move around and feed.

But, at this time of year, the wiregrass is tinderbox dry.

(thundering) Over a million bolts strike each year.

(fire roaring) And just one can ignite the parched landscape.

(dramatic music) Everything living here has to find a way to cope with the inferno.

Including the gopher tortoise.

He uses his shovel-like feet to dig burrows.

These are a refuge from the flames.

And it's not just the tortoise that relies on them.

Over 300 species use these tunnels to shelter from fire, hurricanes, and all the extremes Florida's climate can throw at them.

That's why the gopher tortoise is one of the most important animals that lives in these forests.