Effects of Tracked-Vehicle Training Activity on Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) Behavior at Fort Benning, GA
ENGINEER RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER CHAMPAIGN IL CONSTRUCTION ENGINEERING RESEARCH LAB
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This research examined the influence of tracked-vehicle use on gopher tortoises Gopherus polyphemus on Fort Benning, GA. Did tortoises on sites with heavy tracked-vehicle use differ from those in areas with limited tracked-vehicle use in number of burrows used during the active season rates at which female tortoises receive visitors and number of males that visit each female Data from an undisturbed off-post site with characteristics of old-growth longleaf pine forest were used for comparison. Similar numbers of burrows were used by both sexes in both the heavily disturbed and less-disturbed sites on Fort Benning, but more burrows per animal were used at the undisturbed comparison site. Significantly fewer total social visits were received by females in the more highly disturbed sites. In both the less-disturbed areas and the off-post site, many more different males visited each female. One conclusion drawn is that females on sites impacted by tracked-vehicle activities seem to have more limited options for mate choice and, therefore, are susceptible to problems associated with inbreeding and restricted gene flow. These susceptibilities are not desirable for population viability.
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