Students will help care for and collect data on the animals until their release sometime in 2022. More hatchlings are expected to arrive later this year. Before last fall, Goessling had never hatched and reared gopher tortoises, though many had been in his care. As with most new parents, the anxiety of guarding new life was an added stressor in an already stressful year.
“For the first six months, you are constantly thinking about them and all the things that could go wrong 24/7,” he said. “Thankfully, this has helped me realize that these are pretty hardy animals. All they need is the chance to grow and they will be fine.”
Head-starting has another advantage, Goessling admitted: The tortoises can get bigger than they would have foraging in the wild. Chomper is certainly living proof.