Investigation of health in translocated gopher tortoises (gopherus polyphemus) at a protected site in northwest florida
Cozad, Rebecca Anne
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Gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) are state listed as threatened throughout most of their range (and federally protected in the western-most portion), but are still facing population declines as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation. Throughout the state of Florida, an estimated 22,000 tortoises are in need of relocation as their habitat is being developed. Nokuse Plantation is a protected conservation preserve that has received nearly 4,500 of these translocated tortoises since 2006. From 2012 until 2015, 90 of these tortoises were found sick or dead at multiple enclosures on the property. Thus far, clinical signs and post-mortem findings suggest starvation as the immediate cause of death, but habitat analyses indicate these sites are suitable habitat with easy access to typical gopher tortoise forage plants. This project investigates the demographic, spatial, temporal, and environmental factors that are contributing to this mortality event and define potential predictors of mortality.