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Spire relocating gopher tortoises discovered in path of expansion project

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 10:39 PM CDT|Updated: May. 20, 2022 at 10:00 PM CDT
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UPDATE: Another gopher tortoise has been removed from the path of Spire’s gas line expansion in Spanish Fort.

A Spire crew set a bucket trap and waited for the tortoise to come out on its own, but eventually had to excavate to remove it.

This is the second gopher tortoise removed from that same hole.

It will be relocated by the Alabama Department of Wildlife.

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EARLIER STORY:

SPANISH FORT, Ala. (WALA) - When doing construction projects -- you never know what you’ll encounter. Spire - running into a first in Baldwin County.

Inching along -- Spire’s gas line expansion is underway near Spanish Fort. Back around the first of the year -- Spire’s environmental team discovered a gopher tortoise burrow in the path of the project.

“Gopher Tortoise burrows have a unique shape -- a lot of people confuse them with armadillo if they don’t know what they are looking at. It’s like a half moon -- shaped burrow -- it’s right here,” explained Kyler Stewart, Spire Manager of Pipeline Management.

And as Stewart further explained -- curious employees knew it was an active hole.

“So they would drive by and they would actually see the tortoise on the apron or edge here. And if they went by really slow or stopped -- it would turn around and shoot right back in the burrow. So they’re very aware of their surroundings -- there’s no doubt about that,” said Stewart.

By coincidence -- before Spire -- Stewart worked for an environmental firm in Florida -- removing -- you guessed it -- gopher tortoises.

Waiting for warmer weather -- they got all the right permits and set a trap last week -- and caught an adult female this weekend. She’s since been relocated by the Alabama department of Wildlife.

Now -- here’s where it’s get’s interesting.

So one of my contractors came out with a camera -- we scoped the burrow on Monday morning -- and I looked over and I said David what is that on the camera. He goes that’s another tortoise Kyler... I was like really we are doing this all over again,” said Stewart. “Of the several hundred gopher tortoises I’ve excavated or bucket trapped and relocated -- I’ve never had two in one burrow. So this is new for me and new for the company.”

So they set another bucket trap and are hoping to get lucky a second time.

“So this is what we call the apron of the burrow. There’s the bucket right here -- that I covered in dirt. That way it allows the tortoise to come out feeling safe and it falls in the bucket,” explained Stewart.

He checks it four times a day.

“It’s down there -- living and breathing and having a good time. It’s down at least 25 feet from what we measured off of the camera,” said Stewart.

So far the tortoise -- is taking it’s time -- no hurry no rush.

“And we wait... And we wait... And we wait. Like a tortoise -- it’s a slow process. A very slow process... (laughs),” said Stewart.

At this point -- it’s not halting the work. They’re hoping to catch and relocate it before the weather moves through. We’ll keep you updated.

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