The spotted turtle is a semi-aquatic, freshwater reptile that occurs in vernal pools, bogs, freshwater swamps and small ponds on Nantucket. Throughout most of its range, spotted turtles are considered threatened, endangered or vulnerable. We have several ongoing projects investigating the habitat use preferences and movement patterns of spotted turtles on Nantucket.
Between 2005 and 2014, we trapped and used radio-telemetry to track spotted turtles at the Foundation’s Squam Farm and Medouie Creek properties. At Squam Farm, the goal of our work was to gain a better understanding about how and when this species uses both wetland and upland habitats on the property and the management implications for mowing upland areas that may be used by spotted turtles, particularly during spring movement and nesting periods.
At Medouie Creek, our research documented the habitat preferences of turtles using wetlands on the property prior to increased salinity conditions that occurred in portions of the marsh immediately following our salt marsh restoration project. We radio-tracked turtles at this site in 2007-2008 (just prior to restoration), 2009-2010 (immediately after restoration) and 2013-2014 (several years post-restoration) to document their long-term response. We are currently preparing several manuscripts for professional publication to report the results of these research projects.
We are also in the process of revisiting spotted turtles trapping sites at Squam Farm and will soon be doing follow-up work at Medouie Creek. At Squam Farm, we revisited trapping sites monitored during 2005-2008 when we uniquely marked almost 100 turtles and recaptured several old turtles that were marked by a previous researcher in the early 1990’s. Ten years later, we recaptured 56 individuals, including 28 recaptures - 3 of which were first marked in the 1990’s and recaptured ten years ago. We will soon be doing similar re-monitoring at Medouie Creek.
This work is contributing information about spotted turtle longevity and is part of a statewide survey to inform re-consideration of this species for federal “threatened” protection status. State biologists believe that Nantucket’s spotted turtle population may be one of the most robust and healthy in Massachusetts.