The Gopher Tortoise: by HC120916113640

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									     THE GOPHER TORTOISE:
              A SPECIES IN DECLINE
           A presentation by the Gopher Tortoise Council




“working to conserve the gopher tortoise and the fascinating world in which it lives”

                      This program was partially funded with grants from
                      the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and
                      the League of Environmental Educators in Florida
          Acknowledgments
The following people generously
donated photographs or slides for this
presentation:
Matt Aresco, Joan D. Berish, Becky Bolt, C.
Kenneth Dodd, Jr., George L. Heinrich, Sharon
Hermann, Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research
Center, Lee County Parks & Recreation, Barry
Mansell, Henry Mushinsky, Lora L. Smith
Developed by Laura Wewerka and Lora L.
Smith
The Gopher Tortoise
(Gopherus polyphemus)
Geographic Range of the
   Gopher Tortoise
                  Legal Status
   Alabama- state listed as Protected; federally
    listed as Threatened west of the Tombigbee and
    Mobile Rivers
   Florida- state listed as Threatened
   Georgia- state listed as Threatened
   Louisiana- state and federally listed as
    Threatened
   Mississippi- state listed as Endangered;
    federally listed as Threatened
   South Carolina- state listed as Endangered
Longleaf Pine Sandhill
Scrub
Pine Flatwoods
Coastal Dunes
Disturbed Sites
       The Ecological Role of Fire
                              Promotes diversity

                              Cycles nutrients

                              Alleviates risk of wildfire




   Regeneration after fire
        Seed germination
Keeps vegetation low and
    accessible to tortoises
Prescribed Fire
     Striped Newt
(Notophthalmus perstriatus)
  Sand Skink
(Neoseps reynoldsi)
Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
     (Picoides borealis)
Sherman’s Fox Squirrel
 (Sciurus niger shermani)
    Adaptations for Burrowing


                         Hind foot




Forefoot
The Gopher Tortoise Burrow
Burrow Associates
Gopher Frog
(Rana capito)
Eastern Indigo Snake
(Drymarchon corais couperi)
Florida Mouse
(Podomys floridana)
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
       (Crotalus adamanteus)
               Life History of the
                Gopher Tortoise
   Average length: 10-12 inches (25-30 cm)

   Females slightly larger than males

   Slow growing

   Can live more than 60 years
 Sexual Dimorphism
 in Gopher Tortoises


                 Male




Female
Courtship
Nesting
Nest Predation
 Hatchling Gopher Tortoises




 Hatchlings are 1-2 inches long (25-30 mm)

   Hide under vegetation, use
    adult burrows or excavate
    their own

   Soft shell renders them
    vulnerable to predators
                  Food Plants



Stinging nettle                Prickly pear cactus




                   Wiregrass
              Home Range Size
   Adult Females:
    0.75 – 2.7 ac (0.3 - 1.1 ha)

   Adult Males:
    0.75 – 7.9 ac (0.3 - 5.3 ha)

   Juveniles (<4 yrs):
     0.02 – 0.9 ac (0.01 – 0.4 ha)
  Why Gopher Tortoise
Populations are in Decline:
 Problems and a Few Solutions
           Habitat Loss
Development          Forestry Practices




  Mining               Agriculture
Urban Sprawl in
Tortoise Habitat -
     Roads
   Direct effects:
• habitat loss
• mortality

   Indirect effects:
• habitat fragmentation
• artificial habitat
•difficult for burning
  Urban Sprawl in
Tortoise Habitat - Pets
Habitat Degradation -
  Fire Suppression
Habitat Degradation -
  Invasive Species
       Upper Respiratory
      Tract Disease (URTD)
 Symptoms
  • Clear or white nasal discharge
  • Watery eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
Remember, they don’t always show
          symptoms!
The Future
          Mitigation Options
 Avoid   impacting burrows
 Setaside on-site preserves/on-site
 relocation
 Relocate   tortoises off-site
  Gopher Tortoise Relocation




                      • Net loss of habitat
• Saves individuals   • Labor intensive/costly
• Restocking          • Future habitat
                        management
                      • Could spread disease
Creative Conservation at Work

   The Nature Conservancy- habitat acquisition
    and land stewardship
   Other NGO and government land conservation
    measures
   Gopher Tortoise Conservation Initiative
   Tortoise Reserve Program
   Reintroduction of tortoises to restoration areas
            What You Can Do
   Landscape with native plant species (many are
    food plants of gopher tortoises).
   Become active in conservation organizations
    that promote habitat protection and
    management.
   Be a watch dog for tortoises.
   Tell your elected officials that you support
    conservation land purchasing programs and
    support appropriate management of those
    lands, especially frequent prescribed burning.
   Vote!
         What to do if You Find a
             Stray Tortoise
“Hands off” unless:
   On roads, move tortoise to nearest
    habitat (preferably in direction it was
    heading) - BEWARE OF TRAFFIC!
   Ifinjured, contact your local wildlife
    agency or Department of Natural
    Resources
  The Mission of the Gopher
      Tortoise Council

 Education


 Habitat   protection

 Research
      For More Information:
 Write    to us at the following address:
  Gopher Tortoise Council
  c/o Florida Museum of Natural History
  P.O. Box 117800
  University of Florida
  Gainesville, FL 32611-7800


 Visit   our web site:
          www.gophertortoisecouncil.org

								
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