Meeting Abstract

P1.195  Wednesday, Jan. 4  Can Automated Radio Telemetry Quantify Ornate Box Turtle Activity and Nesting Patterns? RADZIO, T.A.*; TUCKER, C.; STRICKLAND, J.T.; LIGON, D.B.; DELANEY, D.K.; Drexel University; Missouri State University; US Fish and Wildlife Service; Missouri State University; US Army Corps of Engineers tar55@drexel.edu

Miniature data loggers and transmitters allow biologists to efficiently study wary or cryptic animals in their natural habitats with minimal disturbance. We investigated whether automated radio telemetry and the signal change method could be used to quantify the activity and nesting patterns of ornate box turtles (Terrapene ornata) inhabiting a sand prairie in northwestern Illinois. The signal change method relies on the principle that any movement of a radio transmitter (including minor changes in orientation) can strongly affect the intensity of the transmitter’s signal at a stationary receiving station. Using video recordings of radio-monitored turtles, we confirmed that transmitter signal strength values can be analyzed to generate accurate indices of box turtle activity patterns. Notably, between late May and mid-June 2010, most radio-monitored females exhibited substantial activity on 1 or more nights. Previous reports indicate that ornate box turtles nest at night, but are otherwise inactive after dark. Based upon this information, relatively little indication of night activity by males, and other patterns present within the radio signal recordings, we hypothesized that night activity corresponded to nesting. In 2010, we tracked 4 night-active females and visually confirmed nesting in 3 of these individuals, but observations of the fourth female were inconclusive. In 2011, a single researcher found 13 box turtle nests at the site by tracking night-active females, providing further support for this method. In conclusion, we demonstrate that the signal change method can be used to generate accurate indices of box turtle activity that can potentially be used to identify nesting activity in this species.