Arboretum staff looking for tortoise’s home

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Staff at the Crosby Arboretum are seeking the original home of a gopher tortoise that was said to have been found in or near the Ponderosa Subdivision.

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Education Curator Jennifer Bucanan said a person with good intentions brought the protected animal to the Arboretum Friday. It is described as an adult male.

While the man appeared to be a good Samaritan, removing a gopher tortoise from an area where it is found can be dangerous to other turtles in the species. Bucanan said that is because these turtles can carry an upper respiratory infection that can easily be spread to other gopher tortoises.

To prevent that spread, it’s best to leave the animals where they are found.

If a tortoise is moved to a new area that situation creates a risk of passing the infection to other populations.

Until the staff can determine where the tortoise was found, it will have to remain in the care of a state biologist for the time being. If this becomes a long-term situation, the animal will be transferred to captivity to live out the rest of its days.

Bucanan said it would ideal to bring the tortoise back to it’s home, where it will have a more productive life.

According to information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, gopher tortoises in Mississippi are federally protected animals due to their dwindling habitat. Most of the animals die as a result of being hit by vehicles while in the road.

Bucanan said that if a motorist decides to move a turtle out of the road, they should first ensure they don’t create a traffic hazard. They should also be moved to the side of the road in the direction they were traveling.

Gopher tortoises can grow to up 15 inches long, weigh up to 15 pounds and live up to 80 years in the wild.