Habitat Restoration Program Offers New Home to Gopher Tortoises Threatened by Habitat Conversion
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) State Lands Division is offering to relocate gopher tortoises within the Baldwin County area displaced by habitat conversion. The gopher tortoise relocation project is associated with habitat restoration within the Perdido River Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
ADCNR’s Perdido River WMA habitat restoration and gopher tortoise relocation project is part of a multi-state wildlife grant involving restoration of longleaf pine ecosystems including its native plants and animals.
The gopher tortoise is a keystone species found within longleaf pine and oak sandhills from eastern Louisiana to far southwestern South Carolina. Gopher tortoise burrows provide refuge for more than 300 species of invertebrates and some rare vertebrate species. The primary threat to this species throughout its range is habitat degradation and fragmentation due to development.
In Alabama, the gopher tortoise is protected by federal and state laws, which can put restrictions on land development where it is found. In Baldwin County, the gopher tortoise is protected by state law.
“If a landowner or developer has gopher tortoises on their property under threat due to habitat conversion or fragmentation, the Alabama State Lands Division will relocate the animals to a state-owned property in an effort to reintroduce populations of the species to suitable habitat within these restoration areas,” said Courtney Norman, Habitat Ecologist with the State Lands Division, Natural Heritage Section.
If you have a gopher tortoise threatened due to habitat conversion contact Courtney Norman at 334-353-1498, for more information.
In Alabama, the gopher tortoise is found in the following counties: Choctaw, Washington, Mobile, Baldwin, Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Clarke, Crenshaw, Coffee, Conecuh, Covington, Dale, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Monroe, Montgomery, Pike, and Wilcox. Small populations also occur in Autauga and Macon counties.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.