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How the Gopher Tortoise Saves Hundreds of Animals from Wildfire

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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.

TRANSCRIPT

- [Narrator] A world away from the watery expanse of the Everglades, a gopher tortoise.

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

But at this time of year, the wire grass is tinder box dry.

(dramatic music) Over a million bolts strike each year.

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

(fire roaring) Everything living here has to find a way to cope with the inferno.

(dramatic music) Including the gopher tortoise.

(dramatic music) (fire roaring) He seeks out sandy soil on higher ground and uses his shovel-like feet to dig burrows.

(dramatic music) These are a refuge from the flames.

(dramatic music) And it's not jus the tortoise that relies on them.

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

(dramatic music) (fire roaring) That's why the gopher tortoise is one of the most important animals in these forests.

(gentle music) (fire crackling)

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