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Tuesday, January 29 • 4:00pm - 4:20pm
(WILDLIFE: TURTLES) Demographic Response of a Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) Population to Multi-year Meso-predator Removal Efforts in a Northeast Ohio Fen

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AUTHORS: Nicholas A. Smeenk, Gregory J. Lipps, Jr. – Ohio Biodiversity Conservation Partnership, The Ohio State University; Caleb Wellman, USDA, Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services

ABSTRACT: Meso-predatorsare primary predators of turtles and may obtain unnaturally high densities due to human subsidies. Predation by such predators may be more prevalent for turtle nests, which can be especially detrimental when nesting sites are concentrated. Persistent nest predation often results in a skewed population structure dominated by large adults due to reduced recruitment. Meso-predator control efforts during the nesting season have occurred yearly since 2011 at several important turtle sites in northern Ohio. At a northeast Ohio fen, we compared size distribution and sex ratios of Spotted Turtles among survey efforts from 2007 to trapping efforts in 2017 – 2018 to assess the demographic response of Spotted Turtles to removal of meso-predators. We used a Lincoln-Peterson population estimate with a Chapman modifier to estimate the turtle population size and density in 2017 – 2018. From 2011-2016, 115 raccoons (Procyon lotor) and 7 Virginia opposums (Didelphis virginiana) were removed along a railroad bed where turtles frequently nest. While the turtle sex ratio did not differ, we found a significant shift in the size distribution between the two time periods resulting from the capture of juveniles in 2017-2018, but not in 2007. A similar size distribution was observed in Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta). We estimated the population size to be 28 individuals (95% CI: 19 - 37), resulting in a density estimate of 22 individuals/hectare. The shift in size distribution and similarity to a conspecific turtle species, suggests that meso-predator control efforts have mitigated predation of nests and/or young, resulting in increased recruitment in the population examined in this study. Further, the estimated population density is high relative to other populations.  These results suggest a healthy population with yearly recruitment and evolutionarily stable sex distribution as a result of continued predator control efforts during the nesting season.

Tuesday January 29, 2019 4:00pm - 4:20pm

Attendees (2)