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SC GT Conservation Strategy.ppt

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SC GT Conservation Strategy.ppt Powered By Docstoc
					GOPHER TORTOISE CONSERVATION IN
        SOUTH CAROLINA

         A BRIEF HISTORY
   TILLMAN SANDRIDGE
   HERITAGE PRESERVE




South Carolina Department of
      Natural Resources
THE TILLMAN SAND RIDGE IS APPROXIMATELY 2,000 HA.
(5,000 ACRES) OF DEEP, FLUVIAL SANDS LOCATED IN
JASPER COUNTY, SC, ADJACENT TO THE SAVANNAH RIVER.

THE TILLMAN SANDRIDGE HERITAGE PRESERVE IS A 1,438 ACRE
PROPERTY OWNED AND MANAGED BY SCDNR.

1984 - SCDNR ACQUIRES 953 ACRES FROM CONTINENTAL CAN
WITH HELP OF NATURE CONSERVANCY.

1999 - 10 SCDNR ACQUIRES A 10 ACRE ADDITION ALONG B&C
LANDING RD.

2001 - SCDNR ACQUIRES A 475 ACRE ADDITION (GOETHE TRACT).
THE ORIGINAL PRESERVE HAS BEEN BURNED PERIODICALLY
FOR THE PAST 20 YEARS, TYPICALLY IN MAY, ON A 3-5 YEAR
ROTATION.

APRROXIMATELY 200 ACRES OF UPLAND HABITAT WAS
BURNED IN MAY 2009.

HERBICIDE APPLICATION WAS USED CA. 2006 TO TREAT
HARDWOODS IN SELECT AREAS.

IN 2004 A 40 ACRE (APPROXIMATE) COASTAL BERMUDA HAY
FIELD ON THE GOETHE TRACT WAS HERBICIDED AND LATER
THAT YEAR LONGLEAF PINE WAS PLANTED AT THIS SITE.
The tortoise population at TSRHP has been the subject of past surveys by Franz in 1974-75
(Auffenberg and Franz 1982) and Wright in 1977-79 (Wright 1982). Surveys within the
appropriate habitat at TSRHP were done in 1977 and 1979 by Wright and 1998 by
Tuberville and Dorcas (Tuberville and Dorcas 2001). The figure below shows the population
estimates derived from these surveys and indicates a steady decline in the adult
population of tortoises at this preserve.

 Tuberville and Dorcas (2001)estimate that approximately 163 adult tortoises occur on the
 TSRHP. This estimate does not account for juveniles and sub-adults. The current estimate
 indicates that this population is in decline, despite the protection afforded and
 appropriate management.
            PSA SITE – DEGRADED HABITAT




APPROX. 3.5 KM FROM CENTER TO CENTER



  TSR SITE – RECOVERING
  HABITAT
         PSA SITE




Fire suppression
           TSR/PSA TORTOISE PROJECT GOALS
•    Collect comparative data on gopher tortoise home range,
   activity patterns and habitat use, at two sites, using
   radio-telemetry.
2. Collect comparative data on habitat condition, burrow
   condition and burrow distribution at the two sites.
3. Collect basic demographic data on gopher tortoise population
    at Tillman Sand Ridge.
4 Use data to evaluate effectiveness of habitat management
    program, and as a base-line for evaluating translocation research.
           Stephen H. Bennett SCDNR
           Wade Kalinowsky SCDNR
           Mike Martin SCDNR
           Dr. Kurt Buhlmann UGA/SREL/SCDNR
           Tracey Tuberville PhD student UGA/SREL
           Dr. “Ab” Abercrombie Wofford College
           Dr. Whit Gibbons UGA/SREL
2003 – 7 TORTOISES ON PSA AND 8 TORTOISES ON TSR OUTFITTED WITH
RADIOS AND TRACKED 2-3 TIMES WEEKLY UNTIL 2006

2006 - 11 TORTOISES (6 NEW, 5 ORIGINAL) ON PSA AND 13 TORTOISES
(8 NEW, 5 ORIGINAL) OUTFITTED WITH RADIOS ABD TRACKED 2-3 TIMES
WEEKLY UNTIL FALL OF 2008.

* ALL ORIGINAL TORTOISES RE-RADIOED WERE FEMALES.
MARK-RECAPTURE COMPONENT
COLLECTION OF BLOOD FROM ADULTS
JUVENILES FOR PATERNITY
HATCHING SUCCESS
FOOD SELECTION ANALYSIS

DATA IS CURRENTLY BEING ANALYZED
BY SREL PARTNERS
          HAMILTON RIDGE WMA                         13,281 ACRES

                    WEBB WMA                         5,866 ACRES



                        PALACHUCOLA WMA              6,757 ACRES




                                      TSR            1,438 ACRES

                                                     27,342 TOTAL ACRES

79 OF SC’s 144 SPECIES OF AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES HAVE BEEN
DOCUMENTED FROM THESE PROPERTIES OR THEIR VICINITY,
INCLUDING: GOPHER TORTOISE SE, GOPHER FROG SE, SPOTTED
TURTLE ST, SOUTHERN HOGNOSE SNAKE ST, DWARF SIREN ST,
ALLIGATOR ST, PINE SNAKE SC, EASTERN DIAMONDBACK RATTLESNAKE SC,
BIRD-VOICED TREEFROG SC
 Aiken Gopher Tortoise
   Heritage Preserve




South Carolina Department of
    Natural Resources
Gopher Tortoise population “discovered” in Aiken
County in 1993.

Preserve is made up of multiple land acquisitions.
Started with 365 acres in 1995. Currently AGT HP is +/-
1622 acres in size.

Nearest natural known population of gopher tortoises
is located in Jasper County at the Tillman Sand Ridge
Heritage Preserve (~70 km southeast).

                2009       2010       2011
Herbicide        470
Thinning         310
Rx burn          320        784       251
Mastication      233
2004 did not have a clear understanding of
     the GT population size or health
What happened to the original population?

    •Habitat loss and fragmentation

    •Fire suppression

    •Forestry

    •Development

    •Take
    Gopher Tortoise Restoration Task Force
          RECOVERY OF THE TORTOISE POPULATION AT
AIKEN GOPHER TORTOISE HERITAGE PRESERVE, IN SOUTH CAROLINA,
            USING RE-STOCKING (TRANSLOCATION)
               Stephen H. Bennett SCDNR
               Brett M. Moule     SCDNR
               Kurt Buhlmann      SCDNR, SREL
               Tracey Tuberville SREL


                 TUBERVILLE ET AL 2005
                            WHY?
•SC DNR owns approximately 1600 acres of tortoise habitat in Aiken
County.

•We have found a local population on S. Edisto sand ridge.

3.We can manage and protect the property.

4.It supports the northern most know gopher tortoise population in
US.

5.The resident population is very small and senescent.

6.If we did not intercede it’s likely we’ll lose the population.

7.We have the technology and the research to support translocation
effort.
              Conservation Options
•    NO INTERVENTION                 Local Extinction


2. NEST PROTECTION                   Requires a reproductively
3. HEAD-STARTING                     viable population

4. RE-STOCKING                       Controversial-last ditch effort
                                     Lots of questions
                                     Has proven successful
                   Concerns about Re-stocking
    Genetic mixing
    Disease Transmission
    Disruption of social structure
    Competition
    Security of recipient site
            Addressing the Concerns
Genetic Mixing

v AGT HP population is biologically isolated—closest
extant populations are Ft. Gordon 40 km and Tillman HP
which is 70 km.

v In 2004, there was low to no genetic mixing occurring
among biologically isolated individuals.

v It is possible that the genetics could be altered;
however, we knew that if we did nothing the genetic line
will be lost.

v The question now becomes, will this population adapt
and evolve to the same environmental conditions that
shaped the original S. Edisto sand ridge gopher tortoise
population?
       Addressing the Concerns (cont.)


Disease

v We conduct health screening (including Upper Respiratory
Tract Disease (URTDS)) for any gopher that is potential for re-
stocking.

v Positive gophers can be isolated and retested at a later date.
       Addressing the Concerns (cont.)
Disruption of Social Structure
v Due to the small size of the resident population it is unlikely that
we’ll disrupt them.

v Based on the design of the project we are establishing social
structure by placing the gopher tortoises within the enclosures for a
predetermined time (>12 months).

v We have increased the probability of interaction; consequently, we
have improved the likelihood of reproduction.
         Addressing the Concerns (cont.)

Competing for Resources
v The resident population is very small and competition is not likely.

v Currently we are restoring, enhancing, or maintaining ~1522 acres
of LLP/wiregrass habitat.

v Four year study:

    How does Mechanical Manipulation and Herbicide Treatments
    Measure Up to the Effects of Prescribed Fire on an Established
             Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) Ecosystem?
2006 Aerial Survey
WAIF

          S.E.
       Sandridge




                   SC
v Local population with fresh new genes
being shaped by the same factors that
shaped the original.

v We preserve the option of nest protection
and head starting

v Each gt will be marked and radio
tracked.

                        WAIF

                                             S.E.
                                          Sandridge



                                                      SC
GT population on the road to recovery…
2004
 – population size and health unknown

2008
 – Pen 1: 25 (8F, 8M, 1JF, 0Y, 8H)
 – Pen 2: 7 (2F, 2M, 2JF, 0Y, 1H)
 – Pen 3: 27 (1F, 3M, 1JF, 5Y, 17H)
 – Temporary Holding Pen: 3 (2F, 1M)
 – All have had physicals (blood work, etc.)
 2009
 -- 8 tortoises added to Pen 2

 Total of 70 tortoises
 30 adults
 40 hatchling/juveniles
In 2009 pen 1 flashing was removed

Prior to removal 14 tortoises were outfitted with radios
These tortoises have been tracked 1-2 times weekly
9 tortoises remain in the original pen area
5 tortoises dispersed, but remain on AGTHP property

In 2011 pen 2 will be “removed and its resident tortoises
Will be tracked

				
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