Burrowed treasure

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Refuge recruits volunteers to help find threatened tortoise burrows

By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

The four hunters spaced themselves about 20 feet apart, in a straight line, poised at the edge of a wall of palmettos and gallberry. The leader of the group, pointing on a map, gave quick directions about his plan of attack: straight through, in a grid, a few hundred yards out, then reposition and come back, covering an adjacent swath of land.
The group crashed through the dense foliage, guiding themselves along the line of sparsely planted slash pines that stretched into the distance. The hunters, because the air was cool, were spared the usual swarms of biting insects and poisonous snakes, but the brush made it hard to see what they’d come for.
“It’s like swimming through a sea of green,” said Vic Doig, the group’s leader, biologist and fire management officer with the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. “No self- respecting gopher tortoise would be caught dead in here.”
Doig was right but only because the tortoises were tucked away safely in the warmth of their crescent-shaped burrows, the very things the group set out to find.

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