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Energy & Environment

Turtles With Transmitters Could Be Key To Their Survival

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Wisconsin DNR
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Wood turtles have been hatching and the hatchlings of the increasingly rare species might be carrying a little extra baggage.

Up to 20 of these state- threatened species are being outfitted with tiny transmitters to allow biologists to track their survival and habits over a year. The turtles were banded along the Wisconsin and Tomahawk Rivers in the Northwoods.

Tiffany Bougie is a UW-Madison graduate research assistant. She says after the hatch, the young turtles were humanely captured and the turtles that were strong enough to carry the small transmitters were set up.

"...Our end goal is to see how long the hatchling turtles survive for a full year. Not too many studies have looked at that. A couple of studies have looked at(turtles) from the time of nest emergence to the point they enter the water for hibernation. But no one has gone beyond that hibernation time. We're trying to get a good idea on the yearly survival instead of a weekly or monthly survival..."

Bougie says the young turtles are often preyed upon by many predators which lowers their survival rates.

She says their shell isn't as hard as a larger turtle... 

"..They're a target for birds, crows will eat them, bigger fish will eat them in the water, raccoons and small, burrowing animals will also target them. They're don't have a lot of defenses..."

The study will look to see if nest protection is worth the effort in terms of increasing turtle populations or preventing their declines. Females don't lay eggs until they're 14-18 years old. The loss of an adult female can have long-term ramifications on turtle populations.

This was the first year of funding for a multi-state partnership with Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa to develop strategies to improve turtle numbers.