Gopher tortoise response to habitat management by prescribed burning

  • Published source details Yager L.Y., Hinderliter M.G., Heise C.D. & Epperson D. M. (2007) Gopher tortoise response to habitat management by prescribed burning. Journal of Wildlife Management, 71, 428-434.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Use prescribed burning: Forest, open woodland & savanna

Action Link
Reptile Conservation
  1. Use prescribed burning: Forest, open woodland & savanna

    A replicated, controlled, before and-after study in 2002–2004 in mixed open shrub and forest habitat in Mississippi, USA (Yager et al. 2007) found that proportions of active gopher tortoise Gopherus polyphemus burrows tended to be higher in forest areas after burning, and that after burning of both forests and forest clearings, more tortoises overwintered in the clearings compared to when forests and clearings were left unburned. Results were not statistically tested. Two years after prescribed burning began, 33 of 34 (97%) gopher tortoise burrows in burned forest were active, compared to 11 of 16 (69%) active burrows before burning. In unburned sites proportions of active burrows in forests were 82–88% over the same period (2002: 14 of 17 active burrows; 2004: 23 of 26 active burrows). In burned sites, 84% of tortoises overwintered in open shrubland and 16% in forest-interior burrows, compared to 59% overwintering in open shrubland, 27% in forest-interior and 14% in forest-edge burrows in unburned sites. Tortoises spent similar amounts of time in open shrubland versus forest habitat and similar hibernation durations in burned and unburned sites (see original paper for details). Four of eight forest and shrubland sites were burned in January–February 2002 and April 2003. Tortoise burrows were surveyed in April 2002–2004. Tortoises (4–7 individuals/site, 20 in burned sites, 20 in unburned sites) were trapped and monitored using radio-telemetry twice a week in the active seasons and once a week in the dormant seasons (>70 times/year/individual).

    (Summarised by: Katie Sainsbury)

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