Texas Tortoise
Gopherus berlandieri

Description:  A medium-to-large land turtle with distinctive ringed shells and elephant-like feet.  The only true tortoise found in Texas.  Its shell is immovable, and when it pulls its head into its shell, it protects its head with its horny front legs.  Overall, each ringed scute on its shell is light centered except on very old adults. Males have a horny projection from the front of their lower shell which is used in male-male combat - males attempt to overturn their adversaries during the spring breeding season.

Habitat:  This is a turtle of the South Texas thornscrub.

Distribution:  If this turtle occurs in the Nueces Canyon, it does so only in the lower portion around the 19 mile bridge.

Abundance:  Probably very scarce if it even occurs here. 

Conservation Status:  This turtle is considered threatened in Texas and is protected from collection.  In the past, its populations suffered from over-collection from the pet trade.  Today, it remains abundant on larger South Texas ranches.  An introduced turtle disease (Upper Respiratory Disease) has decimated populations of the related Desert Tortoise of California, and Texas Tortoise populations should be carefully monitored for this disease.  This disease was apparently transmitted to Desert Tortoises from captive South American Tortoise populations.

Comments:  A very long-lived species; however, very few hatchling turtles survive to become large enough to be safe from predation.