Home Range and Site Fidelity of Imperiled Ornate Box Turtles (Terrapene ornata) in Northwestern Illinois

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Refsnider, Jeanine
Strickland, Jeramie
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Janzen, Fredric
Professor Emeritus
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Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology seeks to teach the studies of ecology (organisms and their environment), evolutionary theory (the origin and interrelationships of organisms), and organismal biology (the structure, function, and biodiversity of organisms). In doing this, it offers several majors which are codirected with other departments, including biology, genetics, and environmental sciences.

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology was founded in 2003 as a merger of the Department of Botany, the Department of Microbiology, and the Department of Zoology and Genetics.

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The destruction of prairies has led to the decline of the ornate box turtle (Terrapene ornate) across much of its range. Land management agencies are considering translocation programs to restore populations to areas from which they have been extirpated. For these conservation efforts to be successful, long-term posttranslocation monitoring is necessary to ensure that translocated individuals behave and use habitat similarly to unmanipulated individuals. We conducted a 3-yr radiotelemetry study of a potential source population of ornate box turtles to provide baseline data on home range size and site fidelity pretranslocation. Adult males and females did not differ in minimum convex polygon home range size (mean 4.0 ha), 95% fixed kernel home ranges (mean 2.6 ha), or 50% fixed kernel home ranges (mean 0.4 ha). Both sexes showed high site fidelity to annual home ranges and to previously used overwintering sites, although distance between subsequent overwintering sites was less for females than for males. At our study site, ornate box turtles have relatively small home ranges and exhibit strong site fidelity. Translocation programs for this species should closely monitor movements of translocated individuals to assess whether they are successfully establishing new home ranges or attempting to return to their site of origin. Moreover, the high site fidelity exhibited by this species suggests that newly translocated individuals may be at increased mortality risk because they are unfamiliar with suitable overwintering and/or nesting sites in their new location. The results of our study will be used to ensure that sites to which animals are translocated are comparable to the site of origin in terms of home range size requirements and important habitat features. In addition, our data serve as a critical baseline to which the habitat use and movement patterns of monitored animals posttranslocation can be directly compared to assess the success of the translocation.


This article is from Chelonian Conservation and Biology 11 (2012): 78, doi: 10.2744/CCB-0919.1.