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Turtle Power

October 7, 2011

I was with a field trip for undergrads to Rock Creek Park last week, where we met with the natural resource manager. He’s been doing a study of the park’s eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina)
population for years now, which in part involves tracking turtles who he’s radio tagged (by glueing transmitters on the tops of their carapaces – it doesn’t seem to effect them at all). He took us out to go “turtle hunting,” and we found one of the males that he’s tagged. This is a short video clip I took of him, after he got tired of being the center of everyone’s attention – for a turtle, he was really booking it out of the area!

A box turtle who lives in a local park.

Unfortunately, the park’s box turtle population is declining. Road kill? Too few hatchlings making it to adult-hood? Skewed sex ratio? People removing turtles from the park to keep them as “pets”? Lawn-mower accidents (being wild animals, the turtles do sometimes wander out of the park and into private property)? All of the above, and then some? Whatever the causes, the turtle population is in trouble. The natural resource manager and a few colleagues wrote an interesting study a few years ago that ended up in Urban Herpetology (a great book of scholarly research). I’ll talk more about his study in a later post; for now, enjoy the video!


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