Desert Tortoise Translocation for Fort Irwin Expansion.
Desert tortoises are threatened in southwest United States and northwest Mexico. CSRC is currently cooperating with the U.S. Army, ITS Corporation, and Kiva Biological on a project to survey, translocate, radio track, and study over 1800 tortoises as part of the controversial expansion of the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
In 2006 and 2007 we surveyed nearly 36 square-miles twice on the Southern Expansion Area to find as many tortoises as possible to translocate; over 650 tortoises were found. In 2008 and 2009 we will survey 78 square-miles of the Western Expansion Area, where we expect to find up to 1200 tortoises. In April 2008, we will be moving the animals found on the Southern Expansion Area immediately south into the 386 square-mile Southern Translocation Area.
Research on the translocation involves understanding the effect trasnlocation has on translocated and resident desert tortoises and compares different ways of translocating the animals. We will compare hard (not placed in a burrow) and soft (initially placed in a burrow) translocation, short-distance (100's of meters) and longer-distance (1-10 km), and constrained (5-ha. pens) and unconstrained translocations. Success of translocations will be measured for up to four years by movements, reproduction, survival, genetic assimilation, and other metrics, and habitat selection. Although not comparing different methods of translocation, the U.S. Geological Survey is looking at the effect of translocation on acute stress in translocatees and residents and is looking at the epidemiology of two diseases affecting desert tortoises.
More information on the Expansion, visit the Fort Irwin Expansion's official website.
The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a 60-day notice to sue the US Army, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management over the wisdom of the translocation (not our study or methods). See their press release and notice here.