Texas Gopher Tortoise Project (Gopherus berlandieri)

About the Tortoises and the Project

Texas gopher tortoises (Gopherus berlandieri) are the smallest of the North American tortoises, and are native to south Texas and parts of Mexico. Their populations have been declining, and it is illegal to remove them from the wild or to keep one as a pet. RCI, as a licensed facility, receives its tortoises from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) via Dr. Paul Crump. We have also received tortoises from Gina’s Heart of Gold Reptile and Exotic Rescue, who partners with Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition (TWRC) to rescue, rehabilitate, and find homes for wildlife. Since May 2020 we have 16 tortoises in residence.

Chula in her pallet
Gopher exploring
Green Dotty on a rainy day

RCI’s Texas Gopher Tortoise Project has two goals: to gain scientific knowledge about mating behavior, and to provide a permanent safe home for animals that need to be relocated. The tortoise habitat has a large enclosure for the females to live together; another enclosure for the juveniles; and separate compartments for the males, who live solitary lives and would otherwise fight each other. As we acquire more animals, we will begin observing their mate choice behavior, and how the males and females interact during courtship.