Skip to main content
padlock icon - secure page this page is secure

Factors Affecting Population Assessments of Desert Tortoises

Buy Article:

$52.00 + tax (Refund Policy)


Desert tortoises have been a subject of controversy since their listing as threatened in 1990. With a wide geographic range and more living individuals than any other listed land animal, biologists have needed to detect population trends against a “noisy” background of strong annual changes. We obtained annual population estimates of desert tortoises over 6 consecutive years at a 2.59-km2 plot in Joshua Tree National Park, California. Our estimates, based on weekly spring surveys, varied substantially, particularly between wet and dry years. Concurrently, we followed 10 radiotagged animals for 3 years to corroborate the surveys. Population density was determined separately for each year and for all years combined. Our best population estimate was an average of 67 adult tortoises, three times more than the density reported in a 1978 survey of the same site. Annual mortality was low ( <10%), and the animals showed extreme site fidelity. Apparent changes in population size were most strongly related to the animals' varying susceptibility to capture. In dry years, home ranges decreased, captures decreased, and effort required to find each tortoise nearly doubled. Our data confirm that tortoises are likely to be undercounted during dry years and call into question earlier studies conducted during droughts.
No References
No Citations
No Supplementary Data
No Article Media
No Metrics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Joshua Tree National Park , 74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, U.S.A. 2: Department of Fish and Wildlife Biology , Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO 80523, U.S.A.

Publication date: October 1, 2000

  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more