If you have been a camper in the last 5 years, you know exactly what “Tort Time” is! For those wondering, this is a reference to activity available during Morning Fun and Free Swim, the two free periods scheduled each day at camp. When campers see “Tort Time” written on the whiteboard they know to head straight to the nature center to see our good friend Tort.
Who is Tort??
Come on, everybody knows Tort! He’s Tort the Tortoise and over the summer he comes to live here at Camp Foley. A tort is a gopher tortoise, and almost 30 years old, making him much too old to be a camper.
Ok, but what is a Gopher Tortoise?
The gopher tortoise is one of five North American tortoise species and is the only tortoise naturally found east of the Mississippi River. It can grow to be up to 15 inches long and weigh from eight to 15 pounds. With their strong elephant looking back legs and front feet specialized for digging, they are well-adapted to burrowing. The burrows provide gopher tortoises with protection from predators. They are most active in the warmer months but spend most of their lives in their burrows. The burrows can get over 20 feet deep! Our Tort is a very average-sized gopher tortoise, and we estimate about 30 years old according to one of our Foley nature experts Ace. These animals usually live to be 60 years old in the wild, but in captivity, they could be over 90 years old. Hopefully, this means we will have Tort for a very long time.
Fine, but where do they live?
Gopher tortoises prefer well-drained, sandy soils found in parts of Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida. The land they like contains sandy soil for digging burrows and nesting, loss of green plants for eating, and open, sunny areas without a lot of trees for sunbathing. While at camp, Tort lives in the outside enclosure at the nature center. It has very nice sandy soil for Tort to dig in and one large tree so he can decide when to nap in the shade or get his tanning on in the sun.
That’s cool, what do they eat?
These guys are herbivores and eat grasses, mushrooms, prickly pear cactus pads, fruits, and flowers, as well as blackberries, blueberries, gopher apples, and other low-growing fruits. Tort gets spoiled here at camp and usually gets lots of treats taken from the Camp salad bar.
Check out some pics of Tort below!