It is acknowledged that the gopher tortoise is declining in numbers throughout its geographic range primarily from degradation and loss of suitable habitat. This research project is part of a pilot program to study the effectiveness of relocation as a mitigation method for the conservation of gopher tortoises. There was an opportunity to gather information about the tortoise population prior to its relocation, and for that reason this thesis is presented in two sections.
The first section of this work involved the analysis of the tortoise population prior to its removal from the development site. Results of two methods for the estimation of population density from burrow counts seem to indicate that in some cases, those procedures may over estimate tortoise density. Excavated burrows of hatchling and juvenile tortoises showed a significant correlation between carapace length and burrow length. A von Bertalanffy interval growth equation fit to carapace length and age data produced predicted ages from specific sized tortoises that were similar to previously published data.
The second section of this thesis describes the methods used to relocate a tortoise population and evaluates the success of that procedure. Use of enclosures around burrows when releasing the tortoises did not lead to their becoming permanently established in those areas. The enclosures probably served to increase the survival rate of the tortoises by establishing a source of shelter. Twenty-five tortoises (12 relocated and 13 resident) were fitted with radio transmitters to document movements. The relocated tortoises generally moved greater overall distances than the residents. However, the differences were significant only in number of moves per tortoise and not in distances per movement. The relocated tortoises did not always use burrows during their movements and often sought shelter in shallow pallets and forms.
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Stout, I. Jack
Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Arts and Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Doonan, Terry J., "A Demographic Study of an Isolated Population of the Gopher Tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus; and an Assessment of a Relocation Procedure for Tortoises" (1986). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. 4921.