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Recovery effort turned disaster for desert tortoises

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In an $8.7-million relocation effort, 760 California desert tortoises were moved out of an Army training center and onto safer ground. But even the best-laid plans sometimes go awry. What federal biologists did not foresee was an unexpected predator: hungry coyotes. Times staff writer Louis Sahagun reports:

So far, at least 14 translocated adult tortoises and 14 resident tortoises in the area have been killed and eaten by coyotes, according to biologists monitoring survival rates of the reptiles, most of which were fitted with radio transmitters. In a related problem, 15 of 70 baby tortoises collected at the training center as part of the relocation have died of various causes, Army officials said.... The California tortoise, whose population has fallen to an estimated 45,000 on the public lands in the western Mojave, is protected under state and federal endangered species acts.

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The Center for Biological Diversity, a Tucson-based environmental group, said it plans to file suit later this month against the Army, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management for allegedly violating the federal Endangered Species Act in their management of desert tortoises.

-- Alice Short


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