An investigation of wood turtle (Clemmys insculpta) nest success in Southwestern Massachusetts

Siart, Leeanne
Rick Van de Poll
Department of Environmental Studies
A study of the wood turtle (Clemmy insculpta) was conducted in southwestern Massachusetts from April 1998 to November 1998. The research focused on nesting behavior and nest success. Aspects of nest success that were studies include location and predation of nests. Also, distances of nests to the nearest stream location were measured to provide baseline data and evaluate the adequacy of the 200 –foot buffer zone under the River Protection Act in Massachusetts for protection of the wood turtle. A study population consisting of 21 turtles (18 adult females, 2 adult males, and 1 hatchling) was captured, measured, and marked for individual identification. The male-to-female adult sex ration was 1:9. Differences in female body size (carapace length mean = 175.39 mm ± 7.84mm, plastron length mean = 169.5 mm ± 10.01 mm) and in body mass (mean = 834 g ± 103.04 g) were not significant. During the study, 78.2% (n=43) of the captures were in terrestrial habitats. Observations of nesting behavior were made from 21 May 1998 to 16 June 1998. Nine adult females were observed nesting or conducting nesting activity. Nests were located up to 110 meters (361 feet) (mean = 61.4m ± 53.69m; n=5) from the water, suggesting that for this population and season the 200-foot buffer zone under the River protection Act of Massachusetts was not adequate to protect nesting habitat of the wood turtle. However, more data should be collected in order to better determine if the buffer zone is sufficient for wood turtle protection. Data collected during this study suggest that this population of C. insculpta is aged (16 of 21 turtles were over 20 years old) and not reproducing at a replacement level. High raccoon population, little recruitment, atypical habitat, along with possible impacts from illegal collecting (although not documented at this site) and road mortality are all possible factors contributing to the viability of this population. More research is recommended as well as management of nesting sites and surrounding habitat.

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