Habitat, home range, and population study of the eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina)
MetadataShow full item record
This study covers the home range, population size, habitat type and components of habitat of the eastern box turtle, Terrapene carolina. The study area was within the floodplains of the Patuxent River on the grounds of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Maryland. A home range and population study was conducted by Lucille Stickel in 1945 within the same study-area and provided a basis for comparative analysis including information on population trends. Mark-recapture data and a tread-trailer device were used to estimate populations, trace the daily route of eleven individual turtles, and home range size. The range length and convex polygon methods were used to calculate home range size. The average box turtles home range as calculated by the range length method was .733 hectares. In addition the average area calculated by the convex polygon method is .955 hectares for the thread-trailer technique. These home range estimates depict a small reduction in range size from Stickels original estimates Forest maturation is proposed as one of the primary factors influencing this reduction of range size. The population size of the box turtle within the study-area was ascertained by mark-recapture techniques. Using the Schnabel Method of estimating population size, an average of 8.62 (8.30 for 1984; 8.92 for 1985) turtles per hectare was determined. The total number of turtles found during the 1985 study season (58) in comparison to the total number found during the 1945 study season (284) demonstrates the declining population of the Patuxent box turtles over the las t four decades. The largest population of box turtles were found in forest habitat s or forest-field ecotones. Determination of box turtles preference for habitat types and components of habitat was emphasized in this study. Two habitat types, 'dried streambeds' and 'woods opening', encompassed the smallest areas of the study site while providing habitat for the greatest number of turtles. In addition many turtles showed preference for two components of habitats (out in the open and under a log). However, because it is easier to locate turtles out in the open, it is proposed here that the large number of turtles found in this Component of Habitat is due to bias surveying technique s and not a preference for turtles. The results also provide information for improving box turtle habitat within parklands. Changes to the study-area and surrounding ecosystems have occurred over the pa s t four decades. The fore s t has matured, upstream waters have been impounded by dams, filtration plants built and increased pollution of the Patuxent River have occurred. The decline in box turtle abundance is probably due to the frequent floods that inundate turtle eggs when upstream dams are opened.