Orphaned gopher tortoises research subjects at Circle B
LAKELAND — Some breakthroughs in what’s known about gopher tortoise behavior may emerge from a monitoring project at Circle B Bar Reserve.
Gopher tortoises are protected land animals found throughout Florida and other parts of the Southeast. They live in deep burrows that they share with other wildlife ranging from insects to snakes.
They have complex social organizations, which is where the monitoring comes in.
None of the 25 gopher tortoises in the Circle B colony had ever met until recently.
« We’ll be interested in seeing what kind of interactions occur among gopher tortoises from different parts of the state, » said Tabitha Biehl, environmental lands stewardship coordinator for Polk County’s Environmental Lands Program.
The tortoise population at Circle B is a collection of « waif » tortoises that were first brought to this 1,267-acre nature preserve in 2014 under a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
They are tortoises FWC officials confiscated from people who were keeping them as pets and there was no way to know where they were removed from the wild.
Circle B was an ideal site because there were no gopher tortoises living there and it has adequate suitable habitat.
The gopher tortoise site is on the south end of Circle B in an area surrounded by black plastic barriers to prevent the gopher tortoises from leaving the site, Biehl said, explaining the animals’ first impulse after being brought there would be to try to return to their original homes.
Helping with the monitoring are interns.