Date of Award

4-28-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Biology (M.S.)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Paul Keenlance

Second Advisor

Joseph Jacquot

Third Advisor

Jennifer Moore

Academic Year

2016/2017

Abstract

A thorough understanding of spatial ecology is fundamental when developing and implementing conservation strategies for imperiled turtle species. I investigated spatial ecology of adult and neonate eastern box turtles in the Manistee National Forest (MNF), Michigan. My primary objectives were to evaluate relative habitat preferences of adults and document residency time of neonates in natal openings. I radio-fitted 25 adults, protected 64 nests, and radio-fitted 66 neonates. Mean home range size for adults (n = 25 turtles) was 16.4 ha ± 2.4 SE (100% Minimum Convex Polygon). I detected non-random habitat use by adults (Wilks Ʌ = 0.202, df = 4, P = 0.001 by randomization) at the home range versus available landscape scale. Upland broadleaf forest ≤250 m to wetland and upland openings were most preferred relative to 5 available habitat types. Most (23/25, 92.0%) adult turtles were initially captured in uplands but 21/25 (84.0%) subsequently maintained home ranges that included wetland habitat. Distances to edge and water within adult home ranges were closer than distances to edge and water within available landscape (Wilcoxon signed-rank tests, P < 0.001). Mean nest emergence date was 18 September. Neonates did not move far ( = 19.9 m ± 2.4 SE) before overwintering and 24/46 (52.1%) overwintered within their natal opening. Neonate dispersal and overwintering habitat use were associated with distance from nest to nearest forest edge and date of nest emergence. In their second activity season, neonates were sedentary in early spring ( = 0.7 m/d ± 0.1 SE) but movements increased >600.0% in June and July. By 1 July, all radio-fitted neonates had vacated their natal openings. Maintenance of existing nesting habitat and creation additional nesting habitat near wetlands should be a priority when considering conservation approaches for box turtle populations in the MNF. Land managers should be aware neonates reside in or very near natal openings for several months after nest emergence.

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