Relocation and population modelling for gopher tortoise recovery
Clark, Erin Elizabeth
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Because of its protected status and close association with the federally listed eastern indigo snake, the gopher tortoise has been the focus of a number of management strategies. Relocation has been one of the most controversial. Concerns about relocation stem from potential impacts on social structure, genetic mixing and spread of infectious disease. Most relocation efforts are not revisited to conduct long-term success monitoring. This study monitored movement and home range of a relocated tortoise population in Aiken County, South Carolina. A small population from McIntosh County, Georgia was trapped and moved to the Savannah River Site, separated into experimental groups, and then penned for varying lengths of time in 1ha enclosures. Movement interaction of all groups was monitored over the course of one active season. The immediately released group showed the highest rate of dispersal, while the group with the longest period of penning prior to release showed the lowest rate of dispersal and the highest level of interaction post-relocation. Interaction appears to be pivotal to success of relocation in this species and penning may improve interaction and reduce dispersal, however, further study is needed.