Christin A. Moeller

Christin A. Moeller, M.S.
Texas A&M University-Kingsville
Major Advisor: Scott E. Henke, Ph.D.

Effect of Translocation on the Threatened Texas Tortoise

The population of Texas tortoises (Gopherus berlandieri) has drastically reduced in number and distribution. Historically found throughout southern Texas from Victoria to San Antonio to Del Rio with densities of 16 tortoises/ha (i.e., 7-8 tortoises/acre), their populations now exist sporadically in southern Texas with densities estimated to be 0.26 tortoises/ha (i.e., 0.1 tortoise/acre or 1 tortoise/10 acres), which constitutes a 98% reduction in population number. Hence, today, Texas tortoises are listed as a threatened species. The Lower Rio Grande Valley is a stronghold for populations of Texas tortoises, but the development of the area by liquefied natural gas (LNG) companies threatens to fragment this refuge. Translocation has been suggested as a possible management option to keep tortoises out of immediate harm from the construction of the LNG infrastructure and resulting vehicular traffic; however, it is unknown if such attempts will alter tortoise movements, survival, and reproduction. Therefore, our goal is to assess the viability of translocation for Texas tortoises as a potential mitigation option before their habitat is altered. Currently, we are constructing the recipient enclosure.

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