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Transferring "Translocation Science" to Wildlife Conservation on DoD Installations: Demonstration of Environmental Enrichment and Soft Release Technology


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Translocation (the intentional release of captive-propagated or wild-caught animals into the wild) to establish a new population or augment a critically small population often fails to meet its goals. Two promising tools to improve the success of translocation are soft release and environmental enrichment. This work evaluated the augmentation of current translocation efforts to improve its success through (1) the use of soft release to improve the survival and reduce the post-release movement of translocated Eastern Massasaugas (Sistrurus catenatus) and Texas Horned Lizards (Phrynosoma cornutum), and (2) environmental enrichment to improve the post-release behavior and survival of captive-reared Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina). We found little evidence that soft release improved the survival or reduced the movement of Eastern Massasaugas or adult Texas Horned Lizards. Annual survival rates of soft- and hard-released snakes and lizards were nearly identical and significantly lower than those of residents. Juvenile soft-released horned lizards had high survival relative to hard-released lizards, comparable to resident juvenile lizards; this age class may be the best candidate for soft release. Environmentally enriched turtles grew faster post-release than unenriched turtles. However, overall survival rates were similar; both treatments had higher than expected survival in the wild.



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