Government scientists tracking 158 desert tortoises relocated from Fort Irwin nearly two years ago to make way for military maneuvers say that nearly half of the animals have died, mostly from coyote attacks.
The death rate, disclosed at a scientific symposium last weekend, raises concern about relocating tortoises, a species threatened with extinction.
The success or failure of the effort is important because more relocations are expected as companies develop wind and solar energy on public land in the Mojave Desert. In addition, the Army intends to move as many as 1,200 more to protect them from artillery fire, tanks and other danger and has invested millions of dollars in the effort.
The Army has not decided whether to go forward with another round of relocations that had been planned this spring. The military wants to make way for expanded live-fire exercises at Fort Irwin, where troops train in preparation for deployment to the Middle East.
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