This study was part of a long-term research program on the ecology of the ornate box turtle (Terrapene ornata ornata). Previous research revealed that predation on eggs is a major source of mortality in these turtles. We used artificial nests to document spatial patterns of depredation and examine the cues that predators use to locate nests. We also investigated the potential of hot pepper powder as a predator deterrent.
We conducted experiments in June, July and August, at two sites in Johnson County, Iowa. We constructed blocks of experimental nests along transects running from the edge toward the center of the sand prairie habitat, where ornate box turtles commonly nest. Each block contained four treatments, which varied in their contents, construction, and marking. The fate of each nest was monitored for one month. We compared patterns of predation among treatments, locations, and sites.
Treatments in which we dug a nest hole were almost all excavated by predators, while treatments with no disturbed soil were untouched. There were no statistically significant differences in depredation among treatments with disturbed soil.
In a second experiment, we investigated whether or not turtle nests could be protected from depredation with a capsicum pepper product (Squirrel Away). A grid of 100 artificial nests was constructed, and 50% of the nests were topped with a tablespoon of Squirrel Away. The fate of each nest was then monitored for several weeks. Squirrel Away had no effect on turtle nest
predators, and is not a viable deterrent.
Ewan Hamilton, ’09 Iowa City, IA
Heath Sienknecht, ’08 Clutier, IA
Charissa Kaspar, ’08 Buffalo, NY
Majors: Biology, English
Ian McNish, ’09 Sun Prairie, WI
Joseph Eneboe, ’08 Onawa, IA
Majors: Biology, Philosophy
Sponsors: Robert Black and S. Andrew McCollum