World Turtle News, 02/03/2019
Landowners’ help required to count Gopher Tortoises
The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division and Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) are on an enlistment drive to help count one of the iconic species in Alabama’s longleaf pine forests, the beloved gopher tortoise.
The reason the agencies must ask for help to estimate the population is that the vast majority of gopher tortoises live on private land in Alabama as well as throughout most of its range in the Southeast U.S.
“We have surveyed most of the public lands in Alabama managed by the ADCNR,” Shelton-Nix said. “More than 95 percent of gopher tortoise habitat is in private ownership. So, there’s pretty much nothing more we can do as a state agency to catalogue the population of gopher tortoises without private landowners stepping up. We have to know where gopher tortoise populations are and assess the populations to see what the status of the species is. We need to assess the populations on private lands. We discussed conservation efforts taking place across the range. We went over all the conservation efforts taking place in Alabama.
“The big take-home message is that we as state and federal agencies, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations), have done all we can do without private landowner help.”
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Photo from Billy Pope.