Artificial Burrow Use as a Management Strategy for the Desert Tortoise, Gopherus agassizii
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As with many desert organisms, the use of a burrow is critical to the survival of the desert tortoise Gopherus agassizii. The burrow provides humidity and thermal buffering from the harsh environmental conditions. Management of this endangered species so far has consisted mainly of relocation or reintroduction, which often involves the use of artificial shelters as part of the reestablishment process. This study investigates the use of artificial burrows as a management strategy for the tortoise. More specifically, it focused on the importance of orientation and size of burrows in relation to their suitability for use by the tortoises. The data collected do not indicate a preference for orientation. However, some evidence seems to suggest that size plays a role in the use of the artificial burrows. This preference probably represents a compromise between how well the tortoise fits into a burrow and the thermal and humidity buffering capacity it afforded.