Home range sizes of a translocated population of gopher tortoises in southern Alabama.

 

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Katie Curtis
Committee: JJ Apodaca, Mark Brenner, Paul Bartels

Turtles are the most endangered vertebrate taxa in the animal kingdom. Translocation, a conservation tool in which individuals of a species are moved, is often used to start new or supplement resident populations of species. While there is speculation that translocations are not an effective strategy, it may be the only method to conserve endangered species. The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is one of the most translocated species in North America. In my study, I used radio-telemetry to investigate whether a recently translocated population in southern Alabama was behaving like a self-sustaining resident population by comparing their home range size to that of resident and other translocated populations. I found that their home range sizes fit within the literature. In addition to radio-telemetry, remote observation was carried out using camera traps positioned outside tortoise burrows to investigate social behavior. The tortoises exhibited normal social behavior; they visited one another at their burrows and co-occupancy of a single burrow by multiple male-female pairs was observed. The results suggest a small but healthy population.