Stopped dead in their tracks: the impact of railways on gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) movement and behavior

  • Published source details Rautsaw R.M., Martin S.A., Vincent B.A., Lanctot K., Bolt M.R., Seigel R.A. & Parkinson C.L. (2018) Stopped dead in their tracks: the impact of railways on gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) movement and behavior. Copeia, 106, 135-143.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Install tunnels/culverts/underpasses under roads/railways

Action Link
Reptile Conservation
  1. Install tunnels/culverts/underpasses under roads/railways

    A study in 2016 on an inactive railway line in coastal strand habitat in east-central Florida, USA (Rautsaw et al. 2018) found that gopher tortoises Gopherus polyphemus used trenches dug under the rails to move from one side of the railway line to the other. Results were not statistically tested. In total, 68 of 96 tortoise photographs showed animals using the trenches (0.4 tortoise sightings/day). Trenches began to be used within four days of being dug. Two trenches were dug 700 m apart in areas with high tortoise density. A camera trap was set facing the rails (one camera/trench) in May–August 2016 (184 trap days, 92/camera). Individual tortoises were identified using a combination of size, shell patterns, shell shape, and forelimb scale patterns.

    (Summarised by: Katie Sainsbury)

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