Working to assure the continued survival of viable populations of the desert tortoise throughout its range

2015 Symposium Index

Desert Tortoise Council 40th Annual Symposium
February 20 - February 22, 2015

Sam's Town Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

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Symposium News Update

The upcoming 40th Annual Meeting and Symposium of the Desert Tortoise Council is a time of celebration, reflection, and review of accomplishments and, of course, ongoing struggles. A high priority will be to address the many challenges ahead with potential solutions. We will be at Sam’s Town in Las Vegas and the dates are February 20-22, 2015, so save these dates to your calendar.

We start promptly at 9:30 a.m. Friday, February 20, and will have a very full program of presentations from long-term colleagues and friends, as well as many new scientists and managers. The Council will honor Drs. Ken Nagy, Lisa Hazard, and their team, including Danielle Shemanski, Christian Meienberger, Ian Wallis, Devesh Vyas, Brian Henen, and Phil Medica for their many years of research on nutrition in tortoises. Their findings are critical for understanding habitat condition and directing future restoration products. Dr. Scott Abella will chair a session on restoration of habitat; he will present Best Management Practices for restoring tortoise habitat, the first in a series of Best Management Practices to be developed by the Council. Michael Tuma will chair of a session of six papers on head-starting, translocation, and reintroductions. Dr. Bayard Brattstrom, who some of you will remember from research with Michael Bondello on off-road vehicle impacts, will talk about a favorite topic of his, social behavior in desert tortoises.

The Saturday morning session will feature Ravens and will be chaired by Dr. Pete Coates, who has assembled 12 experts to discuss three major topics:  Raven Population Expansion and Growth; Impacts to Wildlife; and Potential Management Solutions.  In addition to Pete Coates, speakers include Kristy Howe, Karen Steenhof, William Webb, Matt Lau, Larry LaPré, Jonathan Dinkins, John Marzluff, Brianne Brussee, Michael Casazza, and David Delehanty.  They come from a wide variety of backgrounds and states.  The session on management solutions covers raven removal, teaching ravens to do the right thing, adaptive management solutions, and viewing lethal control of ravens through a conservation biology lens. Sage grouse and snowy plovers will be topics, in addition to tortoises.  Two other presentations on predators are:  1) a summary of a major study on coyote foraging patterns in the Central Mojave Desert and implications for predation on desert tortoises by Brian Cypher and colleagues, and 2) the American Badger as a potential predator of tortoises by Patrick Emblidge and co-authors.

Morafka’s desert tortoise, Gopherus morafkai, occupies a substantial portion of this meeting—especially appropriate with the pending consideration of federal listing as a threatened species. Cristina Jones chairs the Arizona session with 10 papers on the species, and Mercy Vaughn likewise chairs a session reviewing 15 years of field work on Morafka’s tortoise in Mexico. There will be several other sessions: the Friday afternoon government presentations followed by a question and answer panel; papers by NGOs; health and disease research; demography and reproduction; and many other topics.

David Rostal, senior editor of the newly published book, Biology and Conservation of North American Tortoises, will be with us to talk about this multi-authored book. The Council will be selling the book at a special low rate and there will be a book signing. Many of the book authors are attending.

Please contact the Program Chair, Kristin Berry, at regarding abstracts and confirmations.

Field Trip: February 19, 2015

Trout Canyon Translocation Site

Join Roy Averill-Murray, Coordinator for the Desert Tortoise Recovery Office, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Kim Fields, Health Coordinator for DTRO on a tour of the Trout Canyon Translocation Site, located just southeast of Pahrump, NV. Trout Canyon is one of several sites where the San Diego Zoo, in conjunction with FWS and Bureau of Land Management released tortoises from the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center.

We plan on making a couple of stops in the Project Area and walking for an hour or two at each. There will be much time for a collegial discussion of the goals and objectives of the project as well as an update of the releases.

We will meet in front of the Symposium Meeting Rooms in Sam’s Town at 7:30 AM. Bring water, lunch, and good walking shoes. It may be cold and windy, so please bring some warm clothes. Plan on a return of 4:30 to 5 PM. We will set up car pools Thursday morning at Sam’s Town.

For any questions and to sign up for the trip, please contact Peter Woodman at When you sign up, please let Peter know if you can drive and the number of passengers you can take.