The ornate box turtle (Terrapene ornata ornata) is a species native to Iowa and much of the Midwest. It is known to have declined in parts of its range and is considered threatened in the State of Iowa. Much of the information published on the life history of this species is from research on populations in other states, with little information available on local Iowa populations. Such information is important and necessary for making informed management decisions regarding the species and its habitat. Box turtle hatchlings and eggs seem to be especially vulnerable to predation and other environmental stresses. Understanding female nesting behavior can therefore be useful when developing management plans which benefit the species. In our study we used two different techniques to monitor the nesting behavior of female ornate box turtles at the Hawkeye Wildlife Area during the late spring and early summer of 2006. We used radio telemetry to locate selected females every night and were able to make direct observations of nest construction and egg laying. We also monitored the daytime weight of females carrying transmitters and were able to document significant weight losses due to egg laying. Both techniques allowed us to determine that nesting peaked in early June and then occurred sporadically throughout the rest of the season.
Benjamin Rees, ’09 Marshalltown, IA
Heath Sienknecht, ’08 Clutier, IA
Sponsor: Robert Black