Ornate Box Turtle Program
We continued our annual management work at the State Natural Area for the sixth straight year. Our volunteer pool had fewer participants this year, but we managed to work at the SNA on 43 days, contributing 275 volunteer hours. The winter work involved thinning of Black Oak brush and Honeysuckle removal. Spring and summer management involved herbicide treatment of Spotted Knapweed, Honeysuckle and Japanese Hedge Parsley, and hand pulling of Mullein plants and herbicide treatment of Mullein rosettes. In the fall and early winter we resumed our work thinning Black Oak and herbicide treatment of young Quaking Aspen clones. We are currently awaiting snow cover so we can burn the cut brush.
Wood Turtle Nest Site Program
Three nesting Wood Turtles on electric fenced site in June 2017.
2017 was Turtles For Tomorrow’s best year by far, with four newly created Wood Turtle nest sites installed in four counties and two older unfenced nesting sites were equipped with electric fences, bringing the total number of fenced nest sites to 19. These are scattered across eight counties in northern Wisconsin. In addition, an additional three new nesting sites have been partially constructed Bayfield and Taylor counties, and two additional older unfenced nest site are about 90% fitted with electric fences. These five sites are expected to be fully functioning before the 2018 turtle nesting season. There is now only one site of 25 total sites that will need an electric fence installed after the spring of 2018. See Photos.
Habitat management occurred on all 25 nesting sites in 2017 to eliminate or significantly reduce plant densities in order to render the sites highly favorable for nesting Wood Turtles.
Nest site monitoring occurred again in 2017 on the same four nest sites in northwestern, Wisconsin that have been monitored since 2015. These four sites had a total of 19 Wood Turtle nests this year. This was the highest number of nests observed at these sites since they were first constructed in 2014. As a result, we were anticipating a great hatch compared to the previous years, but a very wet spring and summer, and an especially cool August, resulted in heavy nest failure. Only 66 hatchings emerged from 180+ eggs, making this the lowest hatch rate in the three years of monitoring. Although these numbers may seem depressing, these four nesting sites have produced almost 300 hatchlings over the last three years, which likely represents significantly much improved hatches compared to hatching prior to the use of electric fences. As a result, we remain optimistic about the long-term value of these sites to stabilize and help rebuild Wood Turtle populations.
The other 15 electric fenced nest sites experienced very little predation in 2017. Only two of these sites has any observable mortality from above ground predators (Badger and Skunk), with one site experiencing 100% predation of seven nests (6 Wood Turtles and 1 Snapping Turtle).
Camera monitoring continued in 2017 at four sites, all now equipped with electric fences. In previous years these sites involved two nest sites without electric fences and two site with electric fences. In 2017 we generated over 170,000 photos using time lapse and infrared motion detection. Our results were very encouraging as three of these sites experienced no predation, and one site that previously experienced very heavy nest predation had only limited predation. Camera monitoring will continue at these four nests sites through 2019. Table 1 summarizes turtle observations at these sites across the three years of monitoring. The results indicate that turtle usage may be increasing over time.
Table 1. Camera turtle observations from 2015-2017
| Species Obs.\ Site
||Site 1 (fenced)
2015 2016 2017
|Site 2 (fenced)
2015 2016 2017
| Site 3 (fenced in 2017)
2015 2016 2017
|Site 4 (fenced in 2017)
2015 2016 2017
Observation were counted as discrete individuals when at least two hours lapsed since the last observation of the species. Since turtles may visit a nest site several time before depositing their eggs, the number of observations does not represent the number of nesting females.
** Data from 2016 was incomplete due to camera failure for much of the nesting period at this site.