An Investigation Into The Nesting Behavior and Reproductive Characteristics of Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene Carolina Carolina) in Fort Custer State Recreation Area
Palese, Maxwell F.
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The Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) is listed as vulnerable on IUCN Red List of Threatened species. Despite a documented range decline in Michigan, hardly any research has been done on this species within the state. Therefore, I explored the nesting habitat preferences and reproductive biology of an Eastern Box Turtle (EBT) population in Southwest Michigan. Male and Female turtles were measured and tracked via radio telemetry. Nesting habitat was recorded, eggs were massed and counted, and linear regressions were used to test correlations between clutch size/egg mass and body size. The nesting behavior of EBT in this population showed a strong preference for open canopy grassland prairies. Male turtles were significantly larger than females in terms of straight carapace length and straight carapace width. Clutch size was weakly, positively correlated with curved carapace length, however this correlation was not significant. Mean egg mass was weakly, positively correlated with plastron length and width. Once again however, this correlation was not significant. Therefore, there may be a relationship between body size and clutch size/egg mass, however the lack of significant correlations prevents a definitive conclusion from being made. Mean clutch size in this population (6.29 eggs) was higher than expected. Despite the above average mean clutch size, EBT in southwest Michigan appear quite similar to populations elsewhere in terms of their nesting behavior and reproductive biology. Therefore, conservation strategies for EBT in Michigan should focus on protecting known nesting habitat (open canopy prairies) as well as searching for and documenting unknown nesting habitat.