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Wayne - email - url
Just an addition - I count 20 scute rings. That's higher than the usual 15 or so that is the upper limit for actually determining a box turtle's age, but it's almost certainly a minimal age of 20. By other measurements, he was 440 g last year, higher than the average 400 g mass I recorded for 29 other adult males, but still within the standard deviation. He was a good bit longer than average, slightly wider, and his height at the hinge was a little less than average. He certainly wasn't ancient, judging by the sharp markings and lack of a smooth carapace. He probably was on the order of 25 years old.

It's a sad find.
Friday: 18 April 2014 @ 13:54:51


robin andrea - email - url
That is a sad find, Wayne. Sure hope your future encounters are with happily cavorting turtles. Do turtles and armadillos compete for food?

RIP Mort.
Friday: 18 April 2014 @ 14:19:59


Wayne - email - url
Robin - hard to say. Armadillos would certainly snap up any very young box turtle (as would anything else). Adult turtles are typically vegetarian, though they certainly eat meat too. Armadillos are after meat, and they seem to be very efficient at sieving arthropod larvae and worms from the soil. On the other hand, armadillos are also tilling up and mixing the soil and litter, adding oxygen and enhancing decomposition, which may increase the animal life within the soil. On the OTHER hand, they're disturbing root systems of native phorbs that might not be used to this kind of churning.

I have a feeling this is very complicated, but this very noticeable processing of the soil that the armadillos brought with them when they arrived a few years ago certainly wasn't there until that point.

Then there's the holes they dig. Could be it offers adult box turtles safe havens, but it could also be traps for other animals that occupy abandoned holes.

It wasn't a reason why I started trying to estimate box turtle populations from year to year, but it is now.
Friday: 18 April 2014 @ 15:16:21


bev - email - url
Hard to know the cause of death, but cold might well be a factor. Up here in the north, there is some die off off of unlucky reptiles and amphibians that get caught out moving about during a sudden dive in temperature in those first and last warm days of the season.
Friday: 18 April 2014 @ 21:56:16


Mark - email - url
I always hate to see dead animals like that, but of course they all have to come to that end eventually. I don't see turtles around here much, but I would guess that of all the turtles I have seen, dead turtles account for about a quarter or a fifth of the total. That seems pretty high to me.
Saturday: 19 April 2014 @ 18:46:43


Pablo - email - url
I once found a dead turtle, just down the hill from my cabin, that had apparently rolled down the hill (is that even possible given their stance?) and gotten wedged in the crack of a large rock. It must have died of starvation and exposure like that. Never a happy thing to find, but as Mark says, they all must come to this end eventually.

Nice post, if a little sad.
Sunday: 20 April 2014 @ 10:11:50


Wayne - email - url
Bev - hello! While it did get cold, I checked the last few years for April and it wasn't much more than a few degrees colder than usual. I'm guessing disease played a part too, dulling the sense to burrow into a leaf pile for the night. I'm predicating that in part on how few turtles I've found dead in the spring.

Mark - Are those box turtles or just any turtles? I've been analyzing my numbers for discoveries of dead turtles over the last eight years. It's an underestimate because I can't know how many die during the winter buried underground, but the death rate in our protected enclave seems around 2% per year for adults. I'm working all that into another post.

Pablo - yes, that seems an unusual situation. Poor guy. Box turtles are usually capable of righting themselves after falling on their backs. But I can see that there are possible positions that they could not extricate themselves from, just by chance. For me it's hard to see them croak at age 20 or 25 when they could live to be 100+. They're pretty unique in that way.
Wednesday: 23 April 2014 @ 14:29:55


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