GOPHER (Testudo polyphemus), the only living representative on the North American continent of the genus Testudo of the family Testudinidae or land tortoises; it occurs in the south-eastern parts of the United States, from Florida in the south to the river Savannah in the north. Its carapace, which is oblong and remarkably compressed, measures from 12-18 in. in extreme length, the shields which cover it being grooved, and of a yellow-brown colour. It is characterized by the shape of the front lobe of the plastron, which is bent upwards and extends beyond the carapace. The gopher abounds chiefly in the forests, but occasionally visits the open plains, where it does great damage, especially to the potato crops, on which it feeds. It is a nocturnal animal, remaining concealed by day in its deep burrow, and coming forth at night to feed. The eggs, five in number, almost round and 11 in. in diameter, are laid in a separate cavity near the entrance. The flesh of the gopher or mungofa, as it is also called, is considered excellent eating.
The name “gopher” is more commonly applied to certain small rodent mammals, particularly the pocket-gopher.