The Alabama Conservation Advisory Board unanimously passed a motion at the March 7 meeting in Montgomery to make it “illegal to introduce gasoline or any other noxious chemical or gaseous substance into wildlife burrows, dens or retreats.”
This specifically targets the practice of “gassing” gopher tortoise burrows to flush out and capture eastern diamondback rattlesnakes that has been a common practice used by some snake hunters. Scientific studies have shown that the introduction of gas into a gopher tortoise burrow results in death of the wildlife in many cases, sometimes two to three months later. This technique is not an ecologically sound practice and has been prohibited in Florida and Georgia for a number of years.
The gopher tortoise is a state-protected species and is currently federally-listed as a threatened species in three Alabama counties: Mobile, Washington, and Choctaw counties. It is considered a “keystone” species, with over 300 wildlife species being documented using its burrow as refuge and dens, including species of concern such as the federally listed Eastern Indigo snake and black pine snake.
In the fall of 2008, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division funded a wildlife research project with Auburn University to survey the population of gopher tortoises in select areas and study reintroduction efforts. This will provide information to assist WFF in formulating sound techniques for restoring gopher tortoises to much of its original range. Other conservation efforts are underway by WFF to preclude the further decline of important wildlife species such as the gopher tortoise and eastern indigo snake.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.