Shell Station

It's the first day of life for another batch of tiny gopher tortoises as they crack out of their shells and into a dangerous, unforgiving world.

That's why officials at Reed Bingham State Park in Cook County, Georgia are making sure these endangered animals have a chance to hatch before releasing them back into the wild.

Chet Powell says, "What we do is take them, incubate them, then release them back at the very same point they would have been hatched naturally in. There are predators, things that will eat them after they hatch, but they stand a much better chance after they hatch, unlike sea turtles."

The biggest threat to these gopher tortoise shells is armadillos, but the experts say it's much more difficult for the armadillos to find the tortoises once they've hatched.

One little guy is already moving his hands back and forth, ready to get back to his home in the woods. Park managers say this guy along with his little buddies should help preserve the species for many years to come.
Powell adds, "It’s not a problem to release them; that's the ultimate high point for us. When we release them, it’s been our objective."

It’s an objective that should help keep these gopher tortoises around for generations to come.