What’s new for 2017 for the box turtle project?

By the time you read this we should have our state and federal permits in hand. These spell out the scope of the project for the coming “turtle season”. Of course we’ll continue to search for turtles in order to learn more about where and how they live. The changes will come with some new tools and hopefully some new partners.

The big news for 2017 is “Ranger,” our new Boykin Spaniel!

“Ranger,” a Boykin Spaniel, has already begun his turtle-finding training.

Ranger’s new job is to improve the quality of our data by finding box turtles that we miss in the woods. Box turtles are so easily overlooked! Their shells are well-camouflaged. Boykin Spaniels have already been used very successfully in searching for box turtles for other researchers. We hope that we get the same results here.

We want to start getting more data about disease in our turtles this year, too. So far, our disease detection has been limited to looking for signs of infection. This year we have also asked for permission to start taking swabbings of turtles. These swabs can then be shipped to cooperating researchers who can test them for the DNA of disease organisms such as ranavirus, herpesvirus, and mycoplasma. The researchers can use that data to answer bigger questions about how certain diseases can spread in a turtle population. To make that happen, we’re going to seek out researchers that have students who are interested in samples for study and analysis. 

2016 in review – What does it all mean?

What does it all mean? For now, we’re refraining from any “big picture” interpretation of the numbers. We don’t think we have enough numbers from which to draw solid conclusions. Our boxies generally seem to follow the pattern that their activity increases immediately after rain, and especially after a rain day that was preceded by several dry days. When the drought kicked in, then the turtles got off the roads. The ones that were found then usually turned up much closer to a stream bed than in wetter periods. If those observations are sound, then it may be a reflection of the box turtle’s evolution from a purely aquatic turtle, like its relatives, to a more land-adapted lifestyle. They still need lots of water, and they gear their activity and choice of surroundings to finding it.

 

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Just a ridiculously cute turtle…

2016 in review – The “turtle patrol” 

The neighborhood really stepped up this year in documenting turtles that they saw and moved from roadways. The “turtle patrol” reported a dozen in 2016. Seven of those were thanks to Rick and Jan Dappen. Patti O’Dell and her grandchildren and Greg Withrow and his family saw two turtles per household. Marti and Bob Burgess reported the turtle that has apparently resided in their yard since they moved here (it must know “turtle people” when it sees them!). Many thanks to all of you!