Baby tortoises nurtured at state park - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Baby tortoises nurtured at state park

By Jade Bulecza - bio | email

COOK CO., GA (WALB) -  Baby gopher tortoises are hatching again at Reed Bingham State Park as part of a one-of-a-kind conservation's project.

Those babies will soon be released back into the wild at the park.

Reed Bingham state park started a Gopher Tortoise Project seven years ago to protect the threatened species that's also Georgia's official state reptile.

 "We're the only park in the nation to have this type of program. If people come in the next few weeks we can make arrangements for anyone to see them hatch," said Park Manager Chet Powell.

The program started with the release of 14 baby tortoises. This year, they collected 160 eggs. Many have hatched. Interpretive Ranger Jennifer Glover says predators go after the eggs.

"Unfortunately the armadillo has moved into the area and they are really really bad on the eggs because they'll go hole to hole buffet style," said Jennifer Glover, Interpretive Ranger.

Once they hatch they'll be released back to the Burroughs, were they first nested.

Gopher tortoises are different from other turtles. Gopher tortoises typically lay 6-8 eggs while sea turtles lay hundreds. Turtles also typically live in water. Tortoises live on land.

"You'll never see a gopher tortoise go into a pond to get him something to drink. He's gonna get his water from the food he eats and when it rains," said Glover.

Powell says it's not as common anymore to see tortoises on people's property.

"In the 50's and 60's the people were getting rid of them and wanting them off their farm because they needed the farm land. Now people are more interested in protecting them," Powell said.

The baby tortoises will be released on Saturday, October 10. The gopher tortoises are micro-chipped before they are released so rangers can track them as they grow. Tracking also helps rangers protect them.

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