The eastern ornate box turtle (Terrapene ornata ornata) is listed as a threatened species in Iowa. Understanding basic information, such as growth rate, range, habitat, and survival rate, is important to help protect this species. Students and faculty from Cornell College and Mt. Mercy University have conducted a 23-year study of ornate box turtles in Johnson Co., Iowa. We used radio telemetry to monitor movements, growth, and mortality of hatchling and juvenile turtles over multiple years. From these data, we estimated survival, compared growth of known individuals to trends inferred from the relationship between size and number of growth rings for the entire population, and analyzed changes in home range with age and body size. Although growth rings and size appear to accurately age juvenile turtles, the same does not apply to mature turtles. Home range increases with age and size. This adds to our basic understanding of juvenile turtles’ growth and behavior, which can help inform conservation efforts of the eastern ornate box turtle.
Julia Eastham, ’19
Kelly Mickael, ’18