Population Ecology of the Eastern Box Turtle in a Fragmented Landscape


E-mail: jlbowman@udel.edu


Abstract: In the mid-Atlantic region, urban sprawl and development have resulted in habitat alterations and fragmentation; however, the effects on eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) populations are unclear. To investigate the status of eastern box turtle populations in a fragmented landscape, we used mark—recapture and radiotelemetry to estimate population density, sex ratio, age structure, and survival on 4 study areas with differing degrees of isolation and human disturbance in northern New Castle County, Delaware, USA. We estimated adult population densities ranging from 0.81 turtles/ha to 3.62 turtles/ha among our 4 study areas. Sex ratios were male-biased at 2 study areas and balanced at 2 study areas. Proportion of juveniles ranged from 0% to 31%. Estimated annual survival rate ranged from 0.813 to 0.977. Mortality of radiotagged and marked turtles was primarily due to natural causes, but mowing was the primary cause of human-induced mortality. We found evidence of population decline at one study area due to low survival and recruitment. Human disturbances, isolation, and habitat composition appear to have the greatest influence on the box turtle populations we studied. To minimize mortality from human disturbance, we suggest planting crops adjacent to forest habitat that require no mowing or mowing at a height ≥15 cm. (JOURNAL OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT 72(3):745–753; 2008)