Desert tortoises mosey out in first days of freedom

The test site tortoises are on the move.

Two weeks after being set free at the Nevada National Security Site, a group of desert tortoises equipped with radio trans­mitters are spreading out into their new habitat 60 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

And some are moving considerably faster than others.

Of the 60 tortoises released at the federal reservation on Sept. 21, nine wandered more than a kilometer – or three-fifths of a mile – during their first 10 days of freedom. Three of them had covered almost a mile and a quarter by Oct. 1.

"That’s big for a little tortoise," said Jen Germano, a postdoctoral researcher from the San Diego Zoo who is leading the study. "Some of them have gone up over ridges and down into other little valleys or washes. For a little tortoise, that’s got to be like climbing Everest."

The leader so far is tortoise No. 4055, who has been trucking almost due west as fast as his legs could carry him – approximately 0.007 miles per hour – since the day he was set free.

In the first 10 days, he covered more than a mile and a half. By Friday, he had gone another mile and safely crossed a paved road.

His run has caught the attention of officials at the Nevada National Security Site who are inviting the public to suggest names for the tortoise on the test site’s Facebook page.

Among the suggestions so far are Flash, Speedy, Lightning McQueen, and Plume, "as in the plume of dust he leaves behind." The first name submitted was Harry Reid.

Germano said it’s too early to draw any conclusions from the way her test tortoises are behaving. "But I am surprised by how far a little tortoise can go."

For the first week after reptiles were set free, Germano returned to the test site with two or three assistants to check on them daily. She originally planned to go back once a week after that, but she decided to make it twice a week so she wouldn’t lose track of some of her faster-moving subjects.

It takes a crew of three to four people about half the day and several miles of walking to track down all of the tortoises.

"Luckily it’s not 110 degrees out anymore," Germano said.

The researchers use a brick-sized receiver attached to what looks like an old rooftop television antenna to try to pick up the unique radio frequencies given off by each tortoise’s transmitter.

"You move around in a circle and follow the beep," Germano said. "It’s like a game of hotter or colder."

Germano and company also carry small mirrors with them so they can peak inside burrows in search of tortoises.

They’re not always easy to find above ground, either.

"They blend in so well with the environment, and their hiding spots are so good. Sometimes you can walk right by them, and they look like just another rock," she said.

There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to the animals’ movement. They’re just slowly spreading out in different directions.

About half of the research subjects are still within the length of a football field of where there they were released, which may speak to the quality of the habitat there.

Tortoise No. 4047 has moved the least, covering barely enough ground in 10 days – 33 feet – to get a first down in football.

"He pretty much changed which bush he was underneath and that’s it," Germano said.

She plans to track the reptiles over the next year.

The release was the first of its kind at the test site, and it came after officials there approached the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the idea of opening up unused land for tortoise research.

The federal installation takes in 1,360 square miles, an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, and about one-third of it is considered tortoise habitat. In addition to access, the test site kicked in $90,000 in tortoise mitigation fees to pay for Germano’s study.

"As long as she’s happy and it’s working for her research, we’re happy," test site spokesman Darwin Morgan said. "That’s why we did this."

Scientists are still trying to get a grasp on how many Mojave Desert tortoises remain in the wild, but the general consensus is that their numbers are on the decline, mostly due to habitat destruction and disease.

Germano hopes that her work will lead to a better understanding of the species, particularly its youngsters.

All the tortoises she released at the southern end of the test site were between 3 and 8 years old with shells roughly 4 to 6 inches long.

The group included a mix of males and females handpicked after numerous health screenings, hours of observation and a battery of tests.

Some used to be backyard pets. Others were hatched in captivity or were scooped up as urban strays.

Until last month, all of them lived at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, a research and recovery facility the San Diego Zoo operates at the southwestern edge of the Las Vegas Valley under a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies.

Germano said all 60 of her test subjects are accounted for, though she lost track of one for about a day before finding it again.

So far, two tortoises have been eaten by predators, most likely coyotes. Their shells were found with the radio transmitters still attached, Germano said.

Such losses were expected. Because of their small size, juvenile tortoises have a higher mortality rate than adults.

"We don’t interfere at all," Germano said. "It’s part of the process to see what they do in the wild."

The remaining reptiles are "alive and well and running all over the place," she said.

"We’ve seen them eating. We’ve seen them digging burrows. We’ve seen them moving around and exploring their new home," Germano said. "So far everything seems to be going well."

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Henderson police bodycam footage of officer-involved shooting
Henderson police released body-worn camera footage of an officer-involved shooting in a grocery store parking lot at 2667 Windmill Parkway on Aug. 12, 2018. (Henderson Police Department)
Robotics takes off at Las Vegas Academy
Las Vegas Academy’s robotics team made it all the way to the world competition last year, the first year the team competed. Zackary Perry describes how they programmed their robot to compete. The team is an example of what Tesla wants to have in every school in the state. (Meghin Delaney/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bicyclist suffers major head trauma in hit-and-run
A bicyclist was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after a Thursday morning hit-and-run crash near the school formerly known as Agassi Prep. Police said the bicyclist was hit by a white SUV, which fled the scene. The injured man suffered multiple injuries including major head trauma. As of 9 a.m., Lake Mead remained closed between Martin Luther King and Revere Street while police investigate.
Las Vegas artist Dave Dave dies at 42
Dave Dave talks about his art and his life in 2016. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dave Dave, whose dad set him on fire in 1983, dies
Dave Dave, a respected Las Vegas artist who was badly scarred as a boy when his father tried to burn him to death in Southern California, died at Sunrise Hospital on July 15. He was 42. When he was 6, Dave's father tried to kill him by setting him on fire. He was given a sleeping pill and his bed at a Buena Park, California, motel was doused with kerosene. “I remembered being in a lot of pain,” Dave told the Review-Journal in 2016. “When stuff happens to you at that young of an age, you tend to block it out, but I remember the pain was excruciating.” Dave, who was born David Rothenberg, became close friends with Michael Jackson, who met him after the attack, which burned more than 90 percent of his body. “I wanted to meet him, and he wanted to meet me, and that just turned into a lifelong relationship that never ended,” Dave said. “It was amazing being friends with Michael Jackson. He was an amazing person.” Dave attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, and collaborated with various artists around Las Vegas, eventually selling his art to private collectors. Despite his challenges, he continued to live, thrive and create. Dave Dave
Homicide detectives investigate woman's death
Las Vegas police were called to Tahiti Village Resort early Wednesday after calls that someone had been shot. Police found a woman’s body between a parking garage and boiler room on the resort's property. A guest first reported hearing gunfire. There are no witnesses, but police will examine surveillance videos and look for clues. The woman was not identified, but a purse was found near the body. She did not appear to be a guest at the resort.
LVMPD Discusses Ross Dress for Less Shooting
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank discussed the 15th officer-involved shooting of the year at a press conference at Metro headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The active-shooter incident took place at the Ross Dress for Less store at the 4000 block Blue Diamond Road in the south Las Vegas Valley. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Work Begins at Las Vegas Community Healing Garden
Crews moved the wooden Remembrance Wall at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on South Casino Center Boulevard Monday. Construction on a permanent wall is set to begin within the week. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Man wounded outside Cottages apartment
Las Vegas police don't have a motive after a man was shot early Monday morning outside a northwest valley apartment. The man's mother called police to say her son had been shot. She called police around 1:15 a.m. Other people were inside the apartment but no one else was injured. Police are still looking for the shooter.
Ride new Interstate 11 segment in one minute
Interstate 11 opens to the public Thursday, providing sweeping views of Lake Mead, art deco-style bridges and a mural illustrating the construction of Hoover Dam. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Miss El Tiempo 2019
Miss Teen El Tiempo and Miss El Tiempo 2019 were crowned at Sam's Town Saturday, August 4, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Las Vegas Woman Raises Awareness for Anxiety and Depression
Cassi Davis was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after the birth of her second child. After seeking help and support, she felt that there wasn't enough for support for those living day in and day out for those with mood disorders. She created the Crush Run, set for Sept. 22, to raise money for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and bring together a community of people who live with the same conditions she does. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas marks the opening of Tropical Parkway connector
The City of North Las Vegas, Nevada Department of Transportation and other partners celebrated the opening of the Tropical Parkway connector to Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Beltway. The stretch of road will make access easier for distribution centers for Amazon, Sephora and other companies moving into an 1,100-acre industrial area rising near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bighorn sheep with West Temple in background at Zion National Park
A bighorn sheep walks through Zion National Park (National Park Service)
Adult Superstore location closes after 45 years
The Adult Superstore on Main Street has closed its doors for good after 45 years. The shop, which offered a multitude of adult toys, novelty items and movies, opened in 1973. Four other locations remain open. A note on the front door tells customers, “We can’t fully express our sorrow.” Adult Superstore was awarded Best of Las Vegas adult store by the Review-Journal in 2016 and 2017 .
Funeral held for Las Vegas corrections officer
Department of Public Safety Correctional Officer Kyle Eng died July 19 after a fight with an inmate at the Las Vegas Jail. A funeral was held for Eng at Canyon Ridge Christian Church Monday, July 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What Back-To-School Shopping Is Like For a CCSD Parent and Teacher
Laura LeBowsky, a CCSD special education teacher and mother of two, set out to shop for her children's supply lists at her local Walmart and Target. She was looking for deals to try to keep the total under $150, while also allowing Chloe, 8, and Brady, 6, some choice in what they wanted. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Businesses struggle to fill food manufacturing jobs
Chelten House is a family-owned food manufacturing company from New Jersey. They created a facility in Vegas five years ago and have struggled to find experienced workers in the area. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LeBron heckler crosses line, altercation erupts
NBA superstar LeBron James, his wife, Savannah, and daughter Zhuri were at Liberty High School to watch Bronny James in action Wednesday night. But an unruly fan wearing a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey heckled the newest Los Angeles Laker. The man screamed at event security with LeBron and his family about 150 feet away. The man had to be restrained, triggering a brief altercation with security. James and his family were escorted out a side door along with Bronny's team, the North Coast Blue Chips. Event officials canceled the game between the Blue Chips and Nike Meanstreets.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like