Las Vegas Sun / Associated Press & Gary Bogue / Contra Costa Times – 2008-10-13 21:55:36
Coyotes Thwart Effort To Relocate
Desert Tortoise Off Training Grounds
Official: ‘We Shut It Down Because
Of The Mortality Rate’
Las Vegas Sun / Associated Press
FORT IRWIN, Calif. (October 11, 2008) — An effort to move the Mojave Desert’s flagship species, the desert tortoise, off prospective combat training grounds has been suspended because the animals are being ravaged by coyotes.
Army officials decided to move the desert tortoise to make room for tank training despite protests by some conservationists.
Since March, however, about 90 relocated and resident tortoises have died, most killed and eaten by coyotes, according to federal biologists monitoring the project.
“We shut it down because of the mortality rate,” said John Wagstaff, spokesman for the base. “It will remain on hold until the Army and US Fish and Wildlife Service determine the reasons behind it.”
The controversial project, billed as the largest desert tortoise move in California history, involves transferring 770 endangered reptiles from Army land to a dozen public plots overseen by the US Bureau of Land Management.
Fort Irwin has sought to expand its 643,000-acre training site into tortoise territory for two decades. The Army said it needs an extra 131,000 acres to accommodate faster tanks and longer-range weapons used each month to train some 4,000 troops.
The coyotes may be attacking tortoises out of desperation because a drought has depleted their usual prey: rabbits.
The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Army, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and BLM in July, accusing them of violating the federal Endangered Species Act in their relocation plans.
“We predicted that the translocation of tortoises from Ft. Irwin’s expansion would be disastrous and, unfortunately, we were proven right,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the center. “The loss of so many tortoises is certainly not helping this threatened population.”
The tortoise, whose population has fallen to an estimated 45,000 on the public lands in the western Mojave, is protected under state and federal endangered species acts.
* October 12, 2008: Bush Administration Peppered With Endangered Species Lawsuits
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Army Killing Endangered Desert Tortoises, Coyotes, and … ?
Gary Bogue / Contra Costa Times
(April 22, 2008) — Army relocates endangered desert tortoises into drought area. Starving coyotes kill tortoises. Army kills coyotes. Nobody wins, except the Army.
When our little story opens, 770 endangered desert tortoises are living peacefully in their local ecosystem in California’s lovely Mojave Desert. Then along comes the US Army to stake claim on the endangered tortoise’s critical habitat because they want to use the area for Army tank training.
Just imagine what would happen if YOU wanted to build a new home in the middle of an endangered tortoise area. Right.
I last blogged on this subject on April 4: “Army declares war on endangered reptiles to make room for war games.” You can read it here:
And now, just two weeks later, this from the Associated Press:
“BARSTOW, Calif. — Endangered tortoises that were moved to make way for Army tank training in the Mojave desert are facing a threat from coyotes.
“Coyotes have killed 11 relocated desert tortoises since March, when federal officials began moving 770 to make way for expansion of Fort Irwin training grounds north of Barstow. A dozen tortoises already living in the relocation area have also died. A US Fish and Wildlife expert says three tortoises survived attacks, although two lost a leg.
“Authorities say the coyotes may be attacking tortoises out of desperation because a drought has depleted their usual prey: rabbits. Federal authorities plan to track the coyotes and kill or capture them to protect them.”
So, according to the above story, the Army first relocates 770 endangered tortoises into a new area where there is an ongoing drought. Brilliant. And they think that won’t affect the tortoises?
Then the Army says coyotes that already live in the relocation area are killing the tortoises, because they are starving because of the drought. And even though the resident coyotes are simply being natural predators and trying to survive, the Army says it’s going to kill them because the tortoises are more important.
This whole ecological mess, of course, wouldn’t be a problem if the Army hadn’t scooped up the tortoises from where they lived and dumped them there in the first place. Steel-armored tanks take precedence over bone-armored tortoises, you know.
Of course if the tortoises were still living on their old home turf they would have holes to hide in from the coyotes. The tortoises would also know where there were things to eat, and where there was water to drink. But because they have been dumped into this new area … they are still wandering around trying to find all these familiar places.
This makes them obvious to see and easy for the coyotes to catch.
Mother Nature never prepared the endangered desert tortoises for “relocation.”
And she definitely never prepared the endangered tortoises for dealing with the US Army.
Who’d have figured.
But don’t worry … the US Army is stepping up to give Mother Nature a hand. They’re going to kill them all … coyotes … ravens when they spot all those endangered desert tortoises running around in circles and fly down to take a bite … and probably hungry kit foxes … skunks … badgers … and because they wouldn’t be dying if they hadn’t been relocated, eventually even the endangered desert tortoises.
US Army Attacks Endangered Desert Tortoises
Gary Bogue / Contra Costa Times
DESERT TORTOISE ECOSYSTEM (April 4, 2008) — Army declares war on endangered reptiles to make room for war games
Scientists have begun moving the Mojave Desert’s flagship species, the desert tortoise, to make room for tank training at the Army’s Fort Irwin despite protests by conservationists.
The controversial project, billed as the largest desert tortoise move in California history, involves transferring 770 endangered reptiles from Army land to a dozen public plots overseen by the US Bureau of Land Management. The Army said it needs an extra 131,000 acres to accommodate faster tanks and longer-range weapons used each month to train some 4,000 troops.
Desert tortoises are the longest-living reptiles in the Southwest with a potential life span of 100 years and can weigh up to 15 pounds. Their population has been threatened in recent years by urbanization, disease and predators including the raven.
And now by the BIGGEST threat of all — the US Army.
I don’t think our state and federal governments care much for their wild citizens. Just last week the US Fish & Wildlife Service took the gray wolf off the endangered species list so Montana, Wyoming and Idaho can raise revenue by selling licenses to hunt them.
And now the US Army is using tanks to move endangered reptiles out of their normal range and into a new location where they’ll be placed in jeopardy by the stressful effects of the relocation in addition to off-road vehicles and illegal dumping.
Does this mean the US Army is now an official part of the local ecosystem? Do tanks eat cactus flowers?
• Gary Bogue is the Pet & Wildlife Columnist for the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay Area. His blog is:
THERE’S MORE ON DESERT TORTOISES AT:
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.