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Tuesday, January 30 • 11:20am - 11:40am
SYMPOSIA-06: The Chambana Box Turtle Project: A Collaborative Effort Using Environmental Enrichment to Inform Reintroduction Techniques for Terrapene Carolina

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AUTHORS. Sasha J. Tetzlaff, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Brett A. DeGregorio, US Army Corps of Engineers: ERDC-CERL; Jinelle H. Sperry, US Army Corps of Engineers: ERDC-CERL

ABSTRACT. Wildlife reintroductions, particularly those using captive-reared and released (i.e., head-started) animals, can be labor-intensive and costly endeavors, requiring collaboration between multiple institutions. Despite significant effort involved with head-starting programs, they are often unsuccessful because released animals may have difficulty selecting suitable habitat, foraging, and avoiding predators—all of which can impact survival. Understanding what influence rearing techniques have on success or failure are thus needed to inform future efforts. Providing environmental enrichment in head-starting enclosures, with naturalistic features mimicing structural aspects of the release site, holds promise for increasing post-release success by better preparing animals for life in the wild. Here, we report how environmental enrichment affected behavior and survival of a cohort of head-started eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina), a species of conservation concern in the Midwest. We hatched 32 box turtles collected from in-situ nests at Fort Custer Training Center near Battle Creek, Michigan and equally split neonates between enriched and unenriched rearing conditions at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. We soft released 12 turtles (six enriched and six unenriched) at Fort Custer in May 2017 after nine months of captive-rearing and used radio-telemetry to compare behavior (habitat use, movement, and exposure), growth rates, and survival between rearing treatments. We found no evidence suggesting any post-release measure differed between treatments. The 20 turtles which remained in captivity will be released in spring of 2018 so we can explore the interaction between rearing treatment and time in captivity on head-starting success. The results of this study will be used to guide reintroduction techniques for box turtles.

Tuesday January 30, 2018 11:20am - 11:40am CST