Last updated: November 27, 2017
In 1977 the Texas tortoise was listed as a threatened species, luckily, it is one of many animals that reside in the park. Since Palo Alto Battlefield protects the thorn scrub habitat they depend on, a healthy population of tortoises has been able to thrive here.
In order to monitor the health of the species and learn more about their habitat, the Gulf Coast Network is currently conducting a research investigation in the park. There are over 160 identified tortoises with GPS trackers on them. Twice a year, researchers do a ground search through the thorn scrub for the tortoises.
Once a tortoise is found, GPS coordinates for the location are taken, as well as their weight, body measurements, and pictures of the tortoise. The information collected gives an insight into their movement within the park, vegetation preferences, and estimates on population size.
Texas tortoises are an indicator species, meaning that they are highly susceptible to environmental changes. A growing population is an indication of a healthy environment. In turn, if the population decreases this can be taken as a warning sign there has been a negative impact to the habitat. Fortunately, the population of tortoises at Palo Alto Battlefield indicates the park is at a health state.
Having this data available is very helpful for the park in implementing strategies to manage natural resources and sustain the health of the park.