Box Turtle Ecology and Health in Missouri, USA: Comparison Between an Urban and Rural Site
The Saint Louis Box Turtle Project was initiated in the spring of 2012 in response to the growing threats, and lack of awareness, facing box turtles in the Midwest, the increasing disconnect between young people and the outdoors, and the need for scientific information to help inform box turtle conservation in the region. The key goals to the project are to promote conservation of urban and rural box turtles in the Saint Louis area by improving our understanding of the ranging patterns, ecology, and health status of these ecologically important animals, and by developing an education and outreach program. The study sites include Forest Park (one of the nation’s iconic urban parks that lies in the heart of Saint Louis), and the Tyson Research Center, a protected 809ha natural area, 25 km from Forest Park. In the first year of this long-term project, we deployed 20 radio-tracking tags and recorded home-range sizes at both study sites.1 Additionally, we collected health data for 85 individuals including hematology, chemistry profile, corticosterone levels,1 Mycoplasma spp. serology, and PCR results for herpesvirus, ranavirus, adenovirus, and Mycoplasma spp. from a subset of turtles. Seven veterinary and undergraduate students participated in the project and we introduced numerous school age kids to box turtles and nature. Additionally, we garnered media support by television, newspaper and web-based outlets. Results and conservation value from the first two seasons, along with comparative data from our sister project with Galapagos tortoises in the Galapagos, will be presented.
1. Blake, S., Kozlowski, C., Fung, J., Wang, J., and Deem, S.L. 2013. Rural box turtle in Missouri have bigger home ranges and lower corticosterone levels than urban ones. 4th Box Turtle Conservation Workshop. Asheboro Zoo, Asheboro, NC. www.boxturtleconservation.org.