Ornate Box Turtle Programs Accomplishments in 2013
2013 marks the 20th year of the headstarting program. Seventy one ornates were headstarted from August, 2012 through May, 2013. Of the 71, 33 were released at three locations in August and the balance of the headstarts remain in the WDNR’s possession awaiting final disposition. An additional 31 ornate eggs were collected from wild-laid nests in June of 2013. Of these, 29 were fertile and hatched in August. The hatchlings were released without headstarting at four locations.
Volunteer management was conducted to restore and improve habitat conditions at one of the DNR’s state natural areas during 2013, with the goal of controlling exotic plant species and doing savanna restoration. Two work parties were held during the winter of 2013 that involved students from the Prairie du Sac high school. In addition, six other volunteers contributed 371 hours of labor to improve conditions for ornate box turtles and other prairie and savanna species at this site. The habitat work will continue in 2014. Funds are needed to pay for equipment operation (gas and oil) and for equipment maintenance (blade and chain replacements, other parts).
Wood Turtle Program Highlights in 2013
Four degraded nests sites were restored in 2013 in northeastern Wisconsin and another nest sites was created. Two of these five sites are on private lands and the other three are on National Forest Service lands. Unlike most of the nesting sites we have worked on in the past, all five of these sites are or will support predator fences prior to the 2014 nesting season. The fences are expected to significantly improve nesting success, which is essential for rebuilding populations.
Surveys to identify potential locations for constructing or restoring additional nesting sites also occurred in 2013. Seven additional sites were identified in northwestern Wisconsin that we hope to install in 2014 if sufficient funding can be secured. Additional surveys will be conducted in 2014 to identify more locations for creating or restoring nest sites.
Blanding’s Turtles Telemetry Program Accomplishments
In 2013, Turtles For Tomorrow and UW-Whitewater initiated a long-term telemetry study with headstarted Blanding’s turtles. Twenty-six Blanding’s hatchlings were raised over the fall-spring of 2012-13, and in May, 2013, 19 were affixed with radio transmitters and released. After release, turtles were re-located once per week using radio telemetry equipment. The geographic position, habitat characteristics and behavior associated with turtles were recorded during each relocation (ave. number of relocations/turtle: 10.2). After a single tracking season, 5 of the 19 turtles released died due to predation (73.7% survival) and 3 were lost due to equipment failure. The plan is to track the surviving turtles until they reach sexual maturity, which is expected to take around 13-15 years. The goal is to determine how many of them live to maturity and to assess how this effort may have affected the breeding population at the study site. Long-term telemetry studies of headstarted turtles are very uncommon. It is important that this study be conducted to determine if this conservation strategy brings about its desired goal of rebuilding populations.