What You Can Do To Help Save Box Turtles
It is not hard to get involved! There are several things you can do to help save box turtles:
1. Participate in the Davidson College Box Turtle Study
For questions or more information contact Dr. Mike Dorcas: click here.
2. Do not take box turtles from the wild as pets! Very few hatchlings live to be adults (approximately 2-3 born to a female during her entire lifetime survive to adulthood). As a result, turtle populations remain stable only when their are enough offspring to replace their elderly parents. When box turtles are taken from the wild to be pets, they are not able to breed, and the delicate balance of the box turtle population is thrown off. As more and more turtles are taken from the wild, less offspring are born, and the population begins to decline (1).
3. Never release a pet box turtle into the wild unless you know exactly where it came from. Box turtles have an homing instinct that causes them to try to return to the place where they were born, even if they have been moved. If you decide to release the turtle, this search for their homeland causes the turtle to encounter such dangers as roads, predators, and humans. In addition, turtles kept in captivity may not have the important nutrients they need to survive through the cold winter (1). Finally, pet box turtles may not be native to your area and should not interbreed with wild turtles. Captive turtles may also carry diseases or parasites that could harm the local population. For these reasons, it is very important that if you no longer want a pet box turtle and do not know where it was captured, you should try to find a capable new owner. Alternatively, contact a local herp society and put it up for adoption.
4. If you see a box turtle crossing a road or a path, pick it up and move it out of the way of traffic. One of the main threats to box turtles is the danger of being hit by cars while they try to cross the road. Simply by moving the turtle out of harm's way, you can save its life!
5. If a box turtle nests in your yard: Let the eggs remain where they are buried - turtle embryos take several months to develop and may not survive too much movement of their eggs. To provide protection for eggs, a cage made of hardware cloth or chicken wire may be placed over the nest (either anchored in the ground or weighed down), making it more difficult for predators (including raccoons) to dig up the nest. Such a cage should include gaps approximately two inches long at ground level, allowing hatchling turtles to emerge from the nest and disperse (these are similar to the methods used to protect sea turtle nests - click here for an example).
6. Support the protection of wild areas and habitats where box turtles might live. Habitat loss and fragmentation are both severe threats to box turtle populations. As their habitat shrinks, the turtles will have a more difficult time finding food, shelter, and mates. By helping to protect their habitat, you are giving these turtles a place to live, as well as helping other species that share the same habitat as the turtles.
7. Support local legislation protecting turtles from collection for the pet trade, food, or export to other countries.
8. Tell others about the Box Turtle Project!
Note: The problems faced by box turtles are not unique to this species. All turtles and many other reptiles and amphibians will benefit from the few simple guidelines mentioned here.
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