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Dozens of dead tortoises discovered in state forest
Forestry workers roaming the Withlacoochee State Forest to look for trees suitable for harvest have come upon something far more grim: the shells of about 50 newly dead gopher tortoises.
Though such "die-offs" are not uncommon, this one has been dramatic enough to attract the attention of state biologists, who are planning to visit the forest to investigate the cause, probably next week.
"The bottom line is, we're always concerned when we find a large number of dead animals," said Joan Berish, a state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission researcher who specializes in gopher tortoises.
So far, the dead tortoises have only been found in less than a square mile of the forest just north of Stage Coach Trail in Citrus County, in the Citrus Tract, said Vince Morris, an ecologist at the state Division of Forestry office north of Brooksville.
The number of dead could easily be larger because the workers have only looked in a 480-acre area designated for the timber sale, and because they have been looking primarily for marketable trees, not tortoises, he said...