In 2008 the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) started a long-term study focusing on Ornate Box Turtles (OBT), Terrapene ornata ornata, at two locations in Northern Illinois: Lost Mound Sand Prairie (LMSP) and Thompson Sand Prairie (TSP). The following year the OBT was listed as an Illinois Threatened Species because of low population numbers as well as their small and isolated habitats that are scattered throughout the state. Shortly after OBT were listed in Illinois it was decided by USFWS to attempt to headstart the populations at the LMSP to increase the population. This involves hatching and raising OBT for at least a year so that they are larger and less vulnerable when released. The objectives of my research were to first locate individuals at LMSP because there are detailed records and all OBT at LMSP are known. Secondly, record information on their sex, age, dimensions, and weight so I could compare wildborn and headstart OBT and determine if they are growing similarly while taking into account age as a bias. Thirdly, calculate home range size to compare wildborn and headstart home range size. Lastly, compare habitat utilization by sampling vegetation in high and low traffic areas for wildborn and headstarts OBT to determine if they are using the same features within the prairie. I hypothesized that headstarted individuals are just as successful as wildborn individuals in aspects such as overall size and seasonal growth. This assumes they are foraging successfully and surviving in the wild. Likewise, I hypothesized that headstarts and wildborns have comparable home range size at a given age which assumes headstarts are utilizing the prairie similarly to wildborns. Furthermore, I hypothesized that headstarts and wildborns use their habitat and similar vegetation types within their habitats similarly meaning that headstarts are initially using the same resources. During my study, I collected data on carapace length and width, plastron length and width, weight, number of growth rings, and sex. By collecting these data at the beginning and end of the field season I was able to calculate growth rates for turtles of known ages, survivability, and also make comparisons between headstart individuals and wild individuals. Growth rings were found to be useful in determining if the individuals were a or wildborn or a headstart but not for determining exact age. Growth rates and home range sizes of wildborn versus headstarted turtles were analyzed using Analysis of Covariance. Three-way Analysis of Variance was used to test for differences in vegetation cover variables between high and low traffic areas for headstarted and wildborn turtles in each month. Growth was found to be faster in headstarted versus wildborn individuals, while home range size showed no significant difference between wildborn and headstarted. Vegetation data did not show a difference in cover composition between headstarted and wildborn individuals. High traffic areas for both types of individuals were found to have higher shrub cover. The results of this research will provide valuable information to guide headstart efforts for other threatened species of turtles in the United States and throughout the world.
|Advisor:||Minchin, Peter R.|
|Commitee:||Essner, Richard L., Lee, Danielle N.|
|School:||Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville|
|School Location:||United States -- Illinois|
|Source:||MAI 57/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Headstarting, Lost Mound Sand Prairie, Ornate box turtle, Sand prairie, Telemetry, Terrestrial turtles|
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