Nest Browsing and Predation Trends of a Population of Emydoidea blandingii in LaGrangeville, NY
Lindsay Charlop, Vassar College ’16, Ava Farrell, Vassar College, ’16, Marvin Corleto, Vassar College ’19 and Prof. Marshall PregnallPopulations of Blanding’s turtle are important for healthy wetland ecosystems, and help draw public attention to the protection of wetlands and wetland species. This study represents part of a larger effort to conserve the Blanding’s turtle population in LaGrangeville, New York, which is one of the few extant populations in the eastern US. Here, we characterize depredation of turtle nests in the Arlington High School wetland complex, finding that skunks and raccoons are predominantly responsible for disturbing nests, though birds, chipmunks, and groundhogs may eat fragments of eggs that have previously been dug up. Skunks browse experimental plots for longer times than do groundhogs and raccoons, and seemed to search areas more thoroughly and completely. With the understanding that an unusual nesting season (fewer nests with eggs and fewer eggs per nest) may indicate conditions leading to unusual predator foraging, we find that nests are more likely to be found sooner (within five days of nesting) during the nesting season (June through early July). This suggests that nest predator foraging activity is informed by lasting temporal patterns rather than random searching and coincidental discovery throughout the summer.