Turtle Tracks Field Update for Late July 2013

18 Aug

Field update for the Earthshine Nature Programs Turtle Tracks Eastern Box Turtle Conservation project for

July 22, 2013.


We have been following Jimmy Irwin, Catherine and Mrs. Bones the Eastern Box Turtles since 2008. This year (with one unexplained exception) all three turtles continue to follow basically the same movement patterns that I have found them to follow over the last 5 years. They are all doing well and in good health. This summer has been VERY wet and atypically cool however, the turtles have not do not seem to have change their movement patterns in any way that is obvious to me. With the increased rains I believe that they have possibly had an easier time foraging for choice food items that are more available during rainy times such as slugs, snails and worms. I say this not only because I have seen many more snails and slugs this year than in previous years but also because almost every time I have located Jimmy, Catherine and Mrs. Bones this year–their faces have been covered with slug/snail juice!

On July 21st I teamed up with the Curren family of Scaly Adventures and we worked together to locate Catherine during an afternoon rain shower.

Then, Pierce Curren found a wild Black racer sunning on a bush just outside the nature center, he carefully picked it up and proceeded to teaches a group of Earthshine visitors all about it before it gave him something to remember it by (watch the video to see exactly what it gave him!)

Then, on July 22nd I located Jimmy Irwin and began using a new piece of data collection equipment–an infrared thermometer donated by good friend and ENP volunteer and supporter Jim.  This instrument will allow me to take the shell temperature of each turtle (and skin temperature of each snake) while in the field.  This data will be very valuable to these most important reptile conservation studies.  THANK YOU JIM!

Today I also had to remove Jimmy from the wild for a couple of days so he will not be harmed when the field was mowed.


The Continued Odyssey of Mrs Bones.
Mrs. Bones, the box turtle that we have been tracking in Cedar Mountain since 2008, had an uneventful spring and summer feeding on tasty slugs, snails and insects in the grasses of her horse pasture habitat alongside the busy country road where she lives in Cedar Mountain. Unexpectedly in July I lost her radio signal. I feared the worst–that she had been hit by a car or mower due to her close proximity to the busy highway. On about the same day that I lost Mrs. Bones’ radio signal I received a call from ENP volunteer and supporter Meredith saying that she had Mrs. Bones. She had received her from a man who had claimed to have found Mrs. Bones crossing a secondary road about 2 miles away! He said she was moving with purpose and heading east–the direction of her home. He picked her up because he saw her crossing the road and wanted to move her to the other side then he noticed the transmitter on her back and wanted to see what it was. When he realized it was an electronic device he put her in his car and took her home to decide what to do with her. Later that day he met a person who knew of the Turtle Tracks box turtle study and put him in touch with Meredith.  Now we have Mrs. Bones in a holding pen at Meredith’s house where she is awaiting a new transmitter so that we can get her back into the wild and continue tracking her movements.


As you can imagine I have many questions about this interesting turn of events.
1. How did Mrs. Bones end up so far outside of her normal home range?

a. (most likely). she was picked up and carried there by a person who may have wanted her as a pet and then they either placed her in an outdoor enclosure that she later escaped from or they let her go.

b. (less likely) she walked to the location where she was found on her own.  This is less likely but plausible considering that female box turtles will sometimes move long distances to nest. However, after following Mrs. Bones’ and Catherine for 5 years I do not believe that walking over 2 miles is a high possibility–especially due to the danger factor of the roads in the area that she would have to cross–I do not believe that she would have survived the trek.

c. (remote possibility) a dog/coyote picked her up and carried her (highly doubtful).
2. How/why did her transmitter fail? Holohil, the company I am using for transmitters, is one of the best in the business. I nor any other researcher I have worked with has ever had an issue with any of their transmitters.  However, I have to accept that it could be equipment failure–there is a first time for everything I suppose. I am just very glad someone found Mrs. Bones when they did or we may never have found her.

My ideas on what may have happened.
a. (Possible) Equipment failure due to malfunction of electronics. Possible but not probable due to excellent track record of company.
b. (Highly Possible) Equipment failure due to external influences. In some instances radio transmitters have failed due to nearby lightening strikes. We have had a very wet year with a more than the usual amount of electrical storms in the area where Mrs. Bones lives. Since she spends most of her summer days in a flat pasture near pine trees (known lightening conductors) it is plausible that lightening struck near enough to damage the sensitive radio transmitter but not to injure Mrs. Bones.
c. (Possible) Human error.  I may have made a mistake and not replaced Mrs. Bones’ transmitter before its battery died. I checked my records and it seems that I noted that I did replace her transmitter with a new unit in September of 2012. However, I may have made a mistake in my record keeping and if I did I will take full responsibility for my error.

Whatever was the cause of the transmitter failure we will soon know the answer because it has been shipped back to the factory and is being examined as I write this log.

If it failed because of equipment malfunction the company will replace it free of charge. If it was my error and the battery has just died, the company will replace the battery and send it back ASAP charging me only a nominal refurbishment fee. Whatever the reason I plan to get it back on Mrs. Bones and then get her back into her habitat before the end of August.

THANK YOU to Mrs. Bones’ rescuer and to Meredith for taking such good care of Mrs. Bones while she awaits her transmitter!

I will have a video update on Mrs. Bones and the two new turtles in the Turtle Tracks project very soon.

Take a look at the video from today below.

If the above video does not play try following this link: <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijyWCc40yr8 to watch the video on Youtube.

For more information on the Turtle Tracks and Snake Tracks projects and Earthshine Nature Programs please visit us at http://www.earthshinenature.com

It is our goal at ENP to promote wildlife conservation through exciting hands-on education, outreach programs and online with our nature documentary video series.

I am not paid nor do I pay myself to operate ENP or to conduct my wildlife conservation activities. ENP is a 100% volunteer operated program designed to educate you about these greatly misunderstood and amazing animals and hopefully, to impart to you, their beauty, uniqueness and intrinsic value to a healthy Earth and healthy humans.

If you would like to help support our mission and programs please feel free to donate using this link: http://www.earthshinenature.com/donate. Receipts available upon request. You may also donate supplies such as animal foods, medical supplies, reptile vitamins and habitat supplies. If you are interested in donating any of these items please contact us for more information on our current needs.

THANK YOU Earthshine Discovery Center and all of you who have helped to make Earthshine Nature Programs happen! Without all of you, our wildlife conservation and education mission would not be possible.

Visit the Earthshine Discovery Center to learn how you and your family, school, scout, church, corporate or camp group, can visit us and have a wonderful, fun, and educational retreat!

Music by The Steep Canyon Rangers used with written permission. www.steepcanyon.com


Earthshine Nature Programs is in no way affiliated or responsible for ads that may appear below this line.



3 Responses to “Turtle Tracks Field Update for Late July 2013”

  1. Jim Hardy 08/18/2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Hey, Steve,

    I just read the post and watched the video. I’m really delighted you are able to use the thermometer to collect new data!! That’s very cool…or warm…or…. I’ve used the thermometer quite a bit and found that it changes instantly as you move it from one area to another. I suspect you don’t really need to wait for it to reset. (But, of course, that’s up to you.) I’d be interested to see if the shell temp differs from the temp of other areas of the turtle—leg, neck, head, shoulder. You might even find a variance on different parts of the shell. I’ve found that different parts of the corn snake—near the head, belly, tail–can vary by a few degrees. Let me know if you try this and what you find.

    I enjoyed the video. I was surprised the boy didn’t get bitten much earlier by the racer. He was certainly a good sport.

    Take care. Hope to see you soon.


  2. anthonyvenable110 09/02/2013 at 11:47 pm #

    I love box turtles

  3. anthonyvenable110 09/02/2013 at 11:48 pm #

    Reblogged this on anthonyvenable110.

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