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Gopher Tortoise Services Pitfall/Bucket-Trapping
from the FIELD GUIDE TO BUCKET TRAPPING ~ by Thomas Connolly

 

The illustration on the right shows a typical installation of a bucket trap. (The bucket was left open for the purpose of showing the placement relative to the burrow entrance)

Notice that the entrance to this burrow is somewhat concealed by foliage offering additional security for the occupant tortoise.

The hole for the bucket is dug in the entrance of the burrow in line with the normal path of traffic, dug to a depth that has the top of the bucket positioned level with the bottom of the original burrow’s floor and sloped at about the same angle as the original entrance.

(Refer to the section: “Bucket trap and  installation” for additional information!) 


This illustration on the right now shows the completed installation of the bucket trap.

Craft paper has been placed over the top of the bucket and covered with a thin layer of sand and camouflaged with a few leaves.

Also notice that metering sticks have been installed at the entrance of the burrow and will aid in determining the direction that a tortoise was traveling prior to becoming captured.

Here are a few key points!

During the daily visits to inspect the site: Examine the metering sticks and carefully check the sand leading up to and covering the bucket for signs of tortoise tracks. If you find that the sticks have been pushed in or out or if you have tracks, without collapsing the camouflaged lid into the bucket you may need to make adjustments to the sensitivity of the trap, refer to setting trap sensitivity at the end of this section.  If the sticks are pushed inward this is a good indication that a tortoise is entered the burrow, if the sticks are pushed outward then this would indicate that a tortoise has exited the burrow, if the sticks are moved sideways this may indicate that a small tortoise is moving in or out between the sticks. Adjustments to the sticks, sensitivity of the trap, and maintenance of the trap covering in camouflage need to be made daily as they are affected by morning dew, temperature, humidity and of course rain.

(Refer to the section: “Daily site inspections” for additional information!)  
(Refer to section: “Bucket trap maintenance” for additional information!)  


OK so what now you have arrived at your site and find a tortoise in your bucket, before you disturb anything there are a few things you need to check! First check your sticks, if they're still in place then you did not catch the occupant of the burrow, carefully examine the sand surrounding the bucket looking for tracks or evidence of a belly slide, occasionally large tortoises are able to stand on their hind legs and reach out far enough to move the sand from around the bucket sometimes clearing the sticks from the entrance, They will even move enough dirt into the bucket raising the level of the floor making it possible to reach more dirt and eventually they'll fill your bucket with sand and walk out making a clean getaway in just a matter of minutes.

In this case however the evidence is clear that we have successfully captured the tortoise exiting the burrow, there are no signs of disturbed soil or tracks leading up to, or around the bucket. The sticks were plowed over pointing outward and covered with sand as she was heading out to forage. This tortoise will be relocated to a starter burrow and this burrow and trap will be shut down.

(Refer to section: “ Closing down the burrow” for additional information!)


The tortoise census report card is completed (a sample census report card is included in the “Documentation section”), the tortoise showing all signs of good health is immediately released at the entrance of the previously prepared starter burrow. The nail polish marking will help us keep track of this tortoise as we continue to work on this site and other sites nearby.

 


(Refer to the section: “Starter burrows” for additional information!)