HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – Last weekend, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Mississippi released 38 Gopher Tortoises to celebrate National Gopher Tortoise Day. The majority of the animals were incubated at TNC’s Camp Shelby Head Start facility, while some were brought to the conservancy from the wild due to injuries.
The 38 tortoises were released at three different adult tortoise burrows. The Gopher Tortoise has become a threatened species mainly due to the degradation of their habitat and the susceptibility that presents to predators. TNC collaborated with the Mississippi Military Department, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Mississippi Natural Heritage Program, and Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.
As part of the organization’s larger Longleaf Pine efforts across southern Mississippi and much of the southeast, TNC is utilizing prescribed fire techniques to help conserve and restore the gopher tortoise habitat. The tortoises are being released into those portions of the Longleaf pine forest that have been restored and already contain colonies of adult tortoises.