Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Sunday: 15 June 2014

Unfortunate Encounter  -  @ 07:57:12
Box turtles continue to exhibit low activity compared to 2012 and 2013. Still, yesterday I ran across Katherine, who I first found in 2011. She's the one with the mangled front carapace. She may be quite old - the scute rings are very crowded but there could be as many as 35. (The rings are unreliable for determining age after there are more than 15 or so.)

I've been using Excel to construct simple maps that show some of the particulars of my box turtle encounters. The lines and points are derived from GPS readings. The map below does not contain many geographical features, but does show the boundaries of the property, and particularly Goulding and SBS Creeks, as well as the "dry creek" that runs across the western 20 acres. You can fill in the rise of hills if you imagine a floodplain of variable width on either side of Goulding Creek, and hills rising with variable steepness on either side of all three creeks. The scale is approximate; each gridded box is 3.5 acres, if you prefer.

Here's the map for Katherine. I've indicated in the title the year first observed, the number of observations, and the average distance from the centroid of all the observations. That gives me an idea of the home range. For Katherine, I've never found her far from upper SBS Creek (the creek flows south to north).

Unfortunately, Katherine seems to have a very large swelling on the left side of her neck. I suppose it could be a tumor, an abscess, or a result from constant abrasion against the jagged remains of her carapace margins. Probably in descending order of probability. I checked the photos from last year and there was no sign of it then.

At 460 grams, she weighs the same as she did a year ago when I last saw her. Whatever the problem is, I doubt she's likely to survive much longer. She can't withdraw into her shell now - she had trouble doing it completely even before the swelling. She'll probably run into a predator sooner or later, and then that will be it.

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