A good portion of this summer was very hot with many more early season days of thunder storms than usual, making the daily heat index "oppressive" at times, and reducing the amount of time dedicated to tracking and observing study turtles.
Two study turtles, M16 (M) and M39 (F) were found dead in the woods in resting forms, with no apparent trauma. Both were beyond the state to be necropsied, so the actual cause of death is undetermined. Turtle M14 (M) was hit by a vehicle while making a road crossing but survived with a damaged and epoxied carapace. Far worse was the intentional death of turtle M9 (F) while crossing the road early morning on 7/18/16. M9 has been tracked 13.6 miles since 2009 and has made many successful observed road crossings for nesting during previous years.
M1 (F) One of my oldest females, still nests annually. This season she again nested in the meadow as she has done in several previous seasons. She was hand carried across the road in both directions this season, for her safety. 2.0 GPS miles traveled in 2016
M3 (M) Less intensively tracked the early part of this season due to the heat wave and difficult terrain, M3 spends a significant amount of his travels in the power line ROW and adjacent woods. M3 found 2 new females: M43(f) and M44(f) this season after quick, long distance travels. 2.0 GPS miles traveled in 2016
M4 (F) M4 stayed in or near the power line ROW all season, and traveled across the the ridge-top to nest, as she normally does. She hibernated at exactly the same location as she did in 2009, and in the same general area as 2010 to 2015 ( except 2014). 1.3 GPS miles traveled in 2016.
M6 (F) never left the south slope during the season so never crossed the road as she has done in previous years. In late October she was still a long distance from her normal hibernation location, but by November 2nd she was found deep in the upper of two stump holes used before. 0.8 GPS miles traveled in 2016
M8 (M) With the road death of M9(f) on her return trip from the meadow where she nested, M8 now has no known female core residents in the Tank Road sub-group. 1.9 GPS miles traveled in 2016
M9 (F) DEAD Having mated at least once this season M9 crossed the road to the meadow where she nested as in past seasons. On her way traveling back to her primary activity area she was run over by an NPS sociopath employee, Steven Allen Bryant, driving a gov't vehicle, as she crossed the park road, on a clear, dry, sunny morning on a straight stretch of road with almost no public traffic.
M9 was tracked several times a day prior to her crossing attempt, but crossed 1 or 2 days earlier than her past behavior suggested. She would have been helped across the road if she would have waited 1 more day. M9 travelled 1.0 miles this season before being killed.
M9's death is a major loss, both to this study and to the stability of the local population to which she belonged.
M10 (M) Like M8(m), M10 will be missing a core resident female (M9) in his primary activity area. He does mate with M4 in the power line ROW and makes at least 1 trip to the south slope meeting area each season
M11 (F) One of several turtles removed temporarily from the meadow while it was being mowed. She spent much of her season in the woods and less in the meadow, "staging" herself as early as 9/22/16 on the slope near her hibernation spot eventually returning to hibernate near the roadway (as usual). 1.7 GPS miles traveled in 2016
M13 (M) This turtle is not considered a member of the meadow group as it may appear, and he may never have met with any meadow member in the 3 years since he crossed the road and stayed. He traveled very close to the road at least twice this season but did not cross. M13 travelled 2.9 miles in 2016.
M12 (M) Although he occassionally crosses the ravine, M12 never travels to the ridge-tops on either side of this drainage: he stays mid-slope on this south facing slope, and is sometimes found close to M1(f), M6(f), and M32(m). He was found mating with M42, a new female, this season
M14 (M) made an unexpected road crossing in June, and was hit by a vehicle with a glancing blow and survived with injuies to the rear of is carapace. M14 spent the rest of the season in his activity area occupied prior to 2014. 1.6 GPS miles traveled in 2016
M15 (M) He spent more time on the north side of the ridge this year than prior years. M15 is familiar with this area, but in previous years, split his travels between both sides of the ridge and ridge top. M15 was found mating with newly found female M41 twice this season, on the north side of the ridge. 2.2 GPS miles traveled in 2016
M16 (M) DEAD Found dead in the woods 7-8-16 with no appearent trauma. M16 was not observed mating or meeting with any other turtles this season, although he may have met with M21(m) as they traveled close to each other at least once in early summer. M16's loss is significant both to this study, and to the local population. M16 travelled only 0.3 miles this season after emergence.
M18 (M) Primarily a meadow resident, M18 was moved during this season's mowing, along with other meadow residents. These turtles have the entire meadow and adjacent woods to themselves all year except during mowing. 1.6 GPS miles traveled in 2016
M19 (M) Usually a consistant, predictible long distant traveller, in June, M19 travelled to a non-descript area near the highway where he spent a significant amount of the spring and early summer. He never crossed the road, but was close enough many times to cause concern. He traveled 3.2 GPS miles in 2016, and hibernated in exactly the same stump hole where he hibernated in 2015, 2014, and 2013.
M21 (M) Why M21 travels the long, arduous, nearly straight-line route mostly following the ROW one or more times each season is not yet known. For the 2016 season, the tracking of M21 suffered somewhat due to the hot oppressive weather, and his inaccessibility on a very steep, arduous slope. In September, he travelled back to the top of the ridge where he started the season, and spent the remainder of the season in and near the power line ROW. 1.5 GPS miles traveled in 2016
M24 (F) This small female traveled a greater distance this season than ever observed before, including crossing the road to nest in the meadow. She was hand carried in both directions across the road for her safety. M24 was lost August 17th when her radio failed, and was never re-found during the season. 1.6 GPS miles traveled in 2016 (4 months) Update: M24 was re-found mating with M3 on 9/17/17 and re-tagged and tracked the remainer of the 2017 season.
M25 (F) Another primary meadow resident, M25 was observed nesting in the meadow this season, and the eggs were protected from predation with a wire cage. This turtle, along with 4 other meadow residents, were moved into the woods while the meadow was being mowed, and they returned to the meadow edge on their own late September. 2.3 GPS miles traveled in 2016 Update: M25 was killed July 2017 by a tractor mowing the meadow.
M27 (M) This turtle was tracked somewhat less this season than in the past, due to the hot weather, and general inaccessibility. He traveled less distance this season than in previous years, and generally stayed on the north side of the ridge. He traveled to the bottom of the drainage near the gravel road, and may have met and mated with turtle M38 who traveled very close to the same area on the same day. 1.2 GPS miles traveled in 2016
M29 (M) a resident who primarily uses the meadow and makes occasional forays into the adjacent woods, and onto a ridge with dead pines, victims from old ice storms.. He travels a long distance within a small area, mostly staying close to the meadow/forest edge. M29 was moved into the woods while the meadow was being mowed.
M30 (M) This turtle travels long distances, and does so very quickly, but so far, has not been observed to cross any public roads. He is occasionally found mating with female meadow residents, and is often found close to females, inferring that he mates more often than observed.
He was found travelling the ridge-top this season, something he was not observed to do in previous seasons. He was moved to the woods from the meadow while it was being mowed this season. 3.3 miles traveled this season.
M32 (M) shares the south facing slope with M1(F), M6(F), and M12(M), and the ridge top ROW with M16(M) (now dead). He travelled a long distance this season, covering a small area over and over. This male dislikes being handled more than any other turtle in this population and is the only turtle ever to bite me in apparent anger. 1.8 GPS miles traveled in 2016
M38 (F) found late in the 2015 season mating with M19 at the ROW edge. She hibernated at the very exposed ROW edge close to M15, and spent most of the 2016 season on the lower slope and near the cabin, and in the woods nearby. She met (and probaby mated) with M19 in exactly the same place she was found last season (with M19). 1.3 GPS miles traveled in 2016
Green Dot = Emergence, Red Dot = Hibernation, Blue Dot = NEW FIND, White Dot = Dead
Turtle M41 (F) 460 gr, was found on 7/30/16 close to turtle M1(F), on the slope across from the South Slope. M1 crossed the drainage from her primary activity area, evidently met with M41, and crossed back a day later. It's rare to find females in this population meeting.
Later, M41 was found mating with M15 near a location were M15 was located many times during several previous seasons.
M39 (F) DEAD This turtle was found new 5/5/16 early in the season, in the middle of the private road near the spring that M19 and M4 have been found using in the past. I suspect she may have been out of hibernation only a short time. She was radio tagged and tracked for 40 days, and was found dead in a resting form in the woods with no appearent tramatic injury.
M40 (F) Found new 6/12/16 at woods edge close to the cabin, M40 spent a short time nearby before travling over the top of the ridge and quickly down-slope to the bottom of the drainage and up the other side. She traveled too far to be tracked very often during the heat wave days, and was lost July 10th, but she had a message vial attached in case she traveled out of the study area. Update: M40 was re-found 9/18/17 and is again being tracked.
M41 (F) Found new 7/30/16 close to M1(F) who traveled to this location from her normal south slope activity area. Is this a coincidence? Females in the population are rarely found together. After being found, M41 stayed in the same general area on the north slope for the remainder of the season. She is likely a permanent resident of this population, but it will require at least another seaon's tracking to determine that.
M41 was found mating with M15 this season in an area where M15 has been found frequently in the past.
Nine new turtles, M39 through M47, were found this season; 7 female, 2 male. Turtle M40 may be a female transient, which would be unusual. Turtle M45 is certainly a transient and at least 1 or 2 others may also be transients. Seven of these turtles were found meeting or mating with already tagged study turtles. Two turtles were found by local land owners who notified me of their locations. This number of "new" turtle finds is unprecedented at this study site, as is the number of transients found in one season. The greater number of turtles that are tracked, the more that are found. Approximately 1350 turtle locations were GPS'ed this season, recording 32 turtle travel routes.
Turtle M42 (F) 510 gr, was found on 8/24/16 on the South Slope mating with M12. It's difficult to estimate the age of older adults, but M42 must have been around a very long time, since she has considerable carapace and plastron damage of all types.
Some of the marginal scute damage may be the result of mating, but other damage appears to be from fire, disease, and predators. Some carapace keratin is flaking off with smooth scute underneath, similar to M12. Otherwise M42 is a healthy, active turtle, and hopefully a permanent resident of this local population. Additional photos are here.
Turtle M39 (F) 430 gr was found 5/5/16 and tracked only a short distance over 40 days, before being found dead in a form in the woods.
Sudden death is the unfortunate result of several turtle diseases, not allowing time for whatever treatments may be available. Evolving diseases affecting Box turtles are being researched. Inoculations may someday be available to help reduce the chances of local population extinctions.
Turtle M40 (F) 435 gr was found on 6/12/16 near the cabin by the residents and saved for me to process and tag. This was close to where turtles M15(m), M19(m), M22(f), and others have travelled in past seasons.
Turtle M43 (F)455 gr, was found on 8/28/16 with M3(M) who travelled a very long distance from his previous location to mate with M43. This adult female has yellow eyes and a flattened carapace (like most males) and has a carapace and plaston that are almost entirely undamaged.
A look at the numerous, closely spaced annuli on her scutes would suggest that she has been around a long time.
It's not yet known if she is a resident of this population: that will require another season or two of tracking to determine.
M42 (F) was found on 8/24/16 on the South Slope mating with M12(m). It is not yet known if she is a resident of this population. At least part of her travels this summer were located in a difficult area to track frequently. She later moved into the south slope used by M1(f), M12(m), M6(f) and M32(m), and stayed there into hibernation, very close to M1(F). 0.6 miles traveled 2 months this season.
M43 (F) Found new on 8/28/16 with M3(M) who travelled a very long distance from his previous location to mate. M43 later travelled into M9's activity area and may have met with M8 and M10 this season.
It will require more tracking to determine if she is a permanent resident of this population, but with the death of M9(F) this summer, another known female is welcomed. 0.6 miles traveled 2 months this season.
Turtle M44 (F)480 gr was foundon9/9/16 mating with turtle M3 who again quickly traveled a long distance to meet and mate in the woods.
M44 is an older adult with a carapace that has little damage, and like turtles M4 and M1, (and others) has a smooth carapace with only a few major scutes still with annuli. The carapace is somewhat flattened, and not domed like most females.
In the concave of M3's plastron, is seen a small label stating this is a study turtle, and giving contact information. The labels stay on for several years without damage, before they fall off. Most of these turtles do not drag their plastons when walking, but will occassionally close their shells and slide off of downed trees and large rocks.
Turtle M45 (M) 425 gr was foundon9/11/16 meeting with M19(M) who traveled from the top of the ridge where he was located only the day before. M45 is almost certainly a transient moving through this local population.
M45 is another older adult with a mostly smooth carapace with indistinct annuli. He has a very deep concave plastron, which has been put to use as a place to superglue a tiny label with study and contact information. The labels here do not get easily worn and stay as new for several years.
M45 has dull red eyes, normal for females but most males have eyes that are brighter red .
Turtle M46 (M) 430 gr was found 10/2/16 meeting with turtle M10(m) in the ROW meeting area.
M46 is an older adult, with a greater flare on the carapace marginal scutes, including the anterior margins, than any other turtle seen. The keratin has grown so much that the scute edges overlap.
Turtle M47 (F) 390 gr was found 10/2/16 mating with turtle M29 at the meadow edge in the weeds. With red eyes and a somewhat flat carapace, she could easily be mistaken for a male at a glance.
M47 may be a transient, but it will require another season or two of tracking to determine if that is so.
M44 (F) was foundon9/9/16 mating with tutle M3(M) who travelled a long straight route to find her. She stayed close to the found location in the woods for the remainder of the season, sometimes moving close to the road. It will require more tracking to determine if she is a local population resident, and if she is a road-crosser.
M45 (M) Found new 9/11/16 meeting with M19(M), M45 is almost certainly a transient, having quickly dissappeared from radio range after being found. He travelled in nearly a straight line, up and over the top of a high ridge and down into the adjacent drainage. This was very similar to the travel behaviors and direction of turtles M22 and M5 several years ago. He was re-found and tracked across the next ridge and into hibernation. 1.1.GPS miles traveled in 2 months in 2016.
M46 (M) Found new 10/2/16 meeting with M10(M) . He is likely a transient, traveling through this local population. He quickly dissappeared from radio range after being tagged and released.
This turtle is wearing a message vial. If he is found in the future, he can be reported and tracked from his last known location. He needs to be re-found and tracked to determine for certain that he is a transient.
M47(F) Found new 10/2/16 mating with turtle M29 at the meadow edge. She climbed 0.4 miles to the top of a high ridge where she hibernated as the weather turned cold. She was lost when her radio failed and she moved from hibernation. If re-found, she will be tracked to determine if she is going to continue a westward movement (including a road crossing). Update: M47 was re-found 9/15/17 as was tracked the remainer of the 2017 season.