Associate Editor: Carola Haas.
Effects of predator exclusion on nest and hatchling survival in the gopher tortoise†
Article first published online: 27 AUG 2012
Copyright © The Wildlife Society, 2012
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Volume 77, Issue 2, pages 352–358, February 2013
How to Cite
Smith, L. L., Steen, D. A., Conner, L. M. and Rutledge, J. C. (2013), Effects of predator exclusion on nest and hatchling survival in the gopher tortoise. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 77: 352–358. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.449
- Issue published online: 28 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 27 AUG 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 25 JUN 2012
- Manuscript Received: 29 JUN 2011
- Gopherus polyphemus;
- predator management
Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) populations are declining throughout the Southeast, and high levels of predation on nests and juveniles have been suggested as a potential contributor to this decline. Therefore, we documented gopher tortoise nest success and hatchling survival relative to mammalian predator control. We used 4, large (approx. 40-ha) fenced, predator exclosures to exclude mid-sized mammalian predators: bobcat (Lynx rufus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginianus), fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus and Vulpes vulpes), coyote (Canis latrans), nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), and skunk (Mephitis mephitis); 4 unfenced plots served as controls. We monitored nests for survival through hatching and used radio-telemetry to examine hatchling survival. We radio-tracked 40 hatchlings for up to 329 days, but we were only able to track 8 individuals from a single nest at an unfenced plot because of high nest predation. Mean nest survival was greater at exclosures than at unfenced controls (F1, 2 = 45.80, P = 0.0001). Hatchling survival differed (χ2 = 5.839, P = 0.016) between unfenced plots (37.5%) and exclosures (74.4%), suggesting that mammals also were significant predators of hatchlings. The number of juvenile (<13 cm in diameter) and subadult tortoise burrows (13–21.9 cm) increased over a 6-year period in exclosures, providing further support for an effect of excluding mammalian predators on nest and juvenile tortoise survival. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.