Terrapene carolina



INTRODUCTORY


  Allen Blake Sheldon, www.herpedia.com
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].

FEIS ABBREVIATION:
TECA

SYNONYMS:
None

COMMON NAMES:
eastern box turtle
three-toed box turtle
Florida box turtle
Gulf Coast box turtle

TAXONOMY:
The scientific name of the eastern box turtle is Terrapene carolina Linnaeus (Emydidae). Subspecies in the United States include [20]:

T. c. ssp. carolina (Linnaeus)
T. c. ssp. bauri Taylor
T. c. ssp. major (Agassiz)
T. c. ssp. triungius (Agassiz)

ORDER:
Testudines

CLASS:
Reptile

FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
No special status

OTHER STATUS:
Information on state-level protected status of animals in the United States is available at NatureServe, although recent changes in status may not be included.

WILDLIFE DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Terrapene carolina
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION:
The range of the eastern box turtle extends from southern Maine and southern Ontario to the Gulf Coast and Midwest of the United States, with isolated populations occurring in eastern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula [27].

ECOSYSTEMS [40]:
FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak-pine
FRES15 Oak-hickory
FRES16 Oak-gum-cypress
FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood
FRES18 Maple-beech-birch
FRES39 Prairie

STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)
UNITED STATES
AL AR CT DE FL GA IL IN KS KY
LA ME MD MA MI MS MO NH NJ NY
NC OH OK PA RI SC TN TX VA WV
DC

CANADA
ON

MEXICO
Camp. Hgo. Q.R. S.L.P. Tamps. Ver. Yuc.

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS [5]:
14 Great Plains

KUCHLER [50] PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K072 Sea oats prairie
K074 Bluestem prairie
K076 Blackland prairie
K077 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie
K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100
K083 Cedar glades
K084 Cross Timbers
K088 Fayette prairie
K089 Black Belt
K090 Live oak-sea oats
K098 Northern floodplain forest
K100 Oak-hickory forest
K101 Elm-ash forest
K102 Beech-maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K109 Transition between K104 and K106
K110 Northeastern oak-pine forest
K111 Oak-hickory-pine
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
K114 Pocosin
K115 Sand pine scrub
K116 Subtropical pine forest

SAF COVER TYPES [37]:
14 Northern pin oak
20 White pine-northern red oak-red maple
24 Hemlock-yellow birch
25 Sugar maple-beech-yellow birch
26 Sugar maple-basswood
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry-maple
39 Black ash-American elm-red maple
40 Post oak-blackjack oak
42 Bur oak
43 Bear oak
44 Chestnut oak
45 Pitch pine
46 Eastern redcedar
50 Black locust
51 White pine-chestnut oak
52 White oak-black oak-northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
57 Yellow-poplar
58 Yellow-poplar-eastern hemlock
59 Yellow-poplar-white oak-northern red oak
60 Beech-sugar maple
61 River birch-sycamore
62 Silver maple-American elm
63 Cottonwood
64 Sassafras-persimmon
65 Pin oak-sweetgum
69 Sand pine
70 Longleaf pine
71 Longleaf pine-scrub oak
72 Southern scrub oak
73 Southern redcedar
74 Cabbage palmetto
75 Shortleaf pine
76 Shortleaf pine-oak
78 Virginia pine-oak
79 Virginia pine
80 Loblolly pine-shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine-hardwood
83 Longleaf pine-slash pine
84 Slash pine
85 Slash pine-hardwood
87 Sweetgum-yellow-poplar
88 Willow oak-water oak-diamondleaf (laurel) oak
89 Live oak
91 Swamp chestnut oak-cherrybark oak
92 Sweetgum-willow oak
93 Sugarberry-American elm-green ash
94 Sycamore-sweetgum-American elm
95 Black willow
96 Overcup oak-water hickory
97 Atlantic white-cedar
98 Pond pine
103 Water tupelo-swamp tupelo
105 Tropical hardwoods
108 Red maple
109 Hawthorn
110 Black oak
111 South Florida slash pine
235 Cottonwood-willow

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES [67]:
601 Bluestem prairie
710 Bluestem prairie
711 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie
720 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (dunes)
723 Sea oats
731 Cross timbers-Oklahoma
732 Cross timbers-Texas (little bluestem-post oak)
801 Savanna
802 Missouri prairie
805 Riparian
808 Sand pine scrub
809 Mixed hardwood and pine
810 Longleaf pine-turkey oak hills
811 South Florida flatwoods
812 North Florida flatwoods
813 Cutthroat seeps
814 Cabbage palm flatwoods
815 Upland hardwood hammocks
816 Cabbage palm hammocks
817 Oak hammocks
820 Everglades flatwoods

PLANT COMMUNITIES:
In New York, shrub habitats supporting eastern box turtles populations were dominated by northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), blackberry (Rubus spp.), and sumac (Rhus spp.). Woodlands were dominated by black cherry (Prunus serotina), gray birch (Betula populifolia), aspen and cottonwood (Populus spp.), and red mulberry (Morus rubra) [19].

In Florida, habitats dominated by Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolius) are commonly used [24,28].

BIOLOGICAL DATA AND HABITAT REQUIREMENTS

SPECIES: Terrapene carolina
TIMING OF MAJOR LIFE HISTORY EVENTS:
Sexual maturity for the eastern box turtle is reached at 5 to 10 years of age [55]. Dodd [25] noted in a review that eastern box turtles may live to exceed 100 years on occasion, while reaching 50 to 60 years may be fairly common. Most wild eastern box turtles likely only live up to 5 years [25].

Hibernation: Eastern box turtles are active from April to November in northern parts of their range, as well as on warm winter days [1,11,27,52,63,65]. Hibernation begins October to November, and emergence from hibernation begins in March [12]. Eastern box turtles do not appear to hibernate in Florida. Several environmental cues have been identified relating to the timing of hibernation. Generally, eastern box turtles hibernate between the last severe autumn frost and the 1st spring frost [35]. One study concluded that they begin emerging from hibernation when ambient temperatures reach 65 F (18 C) in spring [17]. Another study suggested that box turtles (T. carolina and T. ornata) emerge from hibernation when subsurface soil temperatures (4-8 inches (10-20 cm) below the soil surface) are at least 45 F (7 C) for a minimum of 5 days [41].

Reproduction: Mating occurs May to October in Missouri [65] and has been observed in late November in Florida [22]. Nesting occurs May to July [27,36], with hatching from August to November [27,36,44]. Clutches may contain 1 to 9 eggs with an average of 3.67 to 5 eggs per clutch being typical [13,27,46]. Multiple clutches of eggs may be laid in a single year [79]. Eastern box turtle nests are roughly as deep as the female can reach with her hind legs, approximately 2 to 4 inches (6-10 cm). Eggs are laid primarily during rainy and overcast weather [18]. Incubation lasts 60 to103 days [17,18,36]. Males primarily develop at cooler temperatures while females predominantly develop at higher temperatures [44].

PREFERRED HABITAT:
Eastern box turtles show a preference for forests, especially bottomland forests and edge habitats [6,12,17,19,31,52,54,60,63,65,70,71]. Eastern box turtles in Mississippi inhabited longleaf pine-slash pine (Pinus palustris-P. elliottii) forests ranging from early to mature to late successional stands [60]. Mixed stand habitats in Maryland, dominated by loblolly pine (P. taeda) that originated as agricultural land, were undergoing succession to an oak-maple (Quercus-Acer spp.) forest [54]. In Missouri, eastern box turtles occupied a previously cultivated ridge [65]. In an Oklahoma study, an eastern box turtle habitat was partially dominated by range and pasture [6]. Eastern box turtles occasionally inhabit pastures and marshes in Kansas [17]. Eastern box turtles utilized grasslands, open lawns, and meadows in Arkansas and Florida [28,63]. Conversely, eastern box turtles seemed reluctant to use grassy, herbaceous, and low brush-covered fields in New York [52]. In another New York study and in Maryland, eastern box turtles did not appear to discriminate between habitats because they were found in bottomland hardwood and mixed pine-hardwood forests, shrublands, mixed grasslands, wetlands, riparian zones, croplands, and rural developed areas [19,54,70,71,72]. However, abundance of eastern box turtles in each of these habitats was not reported.

High humidity seems to be one of the most important factors in habitat selection. Mean relative humidity in eastern box turtle habitat in Arkansas was above 80%. Average total ground cover around forms (shallow depressions dug by eastern box turtles) was 40.27%, while the litter averaged 54.34% cover and a depth of 1.41 inches (3.57 cm). Average grass cover at the forms was 12.16%, forb cover was 14.32%, and shrub cover averaged 8.81%. Average canopy cover above forms was 56.05% with an average canopy height of 36.65 feet (11.17 m) [63]. The undergrowth in a Maryland forest was littered with heaps of woody debris, fallen branches, logs, and stumps [72].

Forests provide cool areas and high humidity during the heat of the summer [63]. The most preferred forest habitats were those with the most moisture and highest diversity [52]. In Mississippi, eastern box turtles were found in habitats characterized by gently rolling hills dissected by intermittent and perennial streams [60]. Box turtles (Terrapene spp.) seem to avoid ridges where moisture is low and generally avoid steep hillsides and embankments [24]. Eastern box turtles may use virtually any habitat during rainy weather [13], and they are most active after rain showers [58].

In addition to humid environments, eastern box turtles utilize open water extensively. Eastern box turtles swim across streams and other bodies of water [71,76]. Eastern box turtles are also known to spend hours or days soaking in puddles, lakes, streams, and wet gullies [1,24,71]. In Tennessee, they utilized temporary ponds during periods of high temperature and low precipitation [31]. Eastern box turtles, especially juveniles, may dry out and perish during long periods of drought [1]. Neonates may congregate in open water or seek shade after hatching to avoid dehydration and heat stress [1,11].

Elevation: In a review, Dodd [27] notes that eastern box turtles in New England are common from sea level up to 490 feet (150 m) in elevation, and rare to 705 feet (215 m). In the southern Appalachians, eastern box turtles are common from sea level to 4,300 feet (1,300 m) but rare at higher elevations [27]. Wilson and Friddle [80] noted that eastern box turtles are common in valleys below 1,000 feet (300 m) in elevation, but are rare on ridges above 2,000 feet (600 m) in West Virginia.

Density/Home Range: Average densities of eastern box turtle populations can vary widely and may reflect differences in habitat quality and other environmental factors. For instance, in Indiana, density estimates were 2.7 to 5.7 eastern box turtles/ha [78]. A density estimate in a Virginia population was considerably higher at 35 eastern box turtles/ha [79]. In Missouri, eastern box turtles had an average density of 7.3 to 10.9/acre (18.1-27.0/ha) [66]. In Maryland, an average of 4.1 to 5.9/acre was found (1.7-2.4/ha) [43,71]. In Tennessee, there were 12.3 eastern box turtles/acre (5.0/ha) on average [30]. An eastern box turtle population in Florida had an estimated density of 14.9 to 16.3 adults/ha [25,62].

Eastern box turtles do not appear to be territorial because they are commonly found grouped together under cover or in close proximity to each other. Eastern box turtles occupy the same home range year after year. However, females may leave their home ranges to lay eggs [71]. Home ranges of eastern box turtles in Missouri averaged 3.6 acres (1.5 ha) for females and 3.8 acres (1.5 ha) for males [65]. Average home ranges over a 19-year period in Missouri were 12.7 acres (5.1 ha) for females and 12.9 acres (5.2 ha) for males at the same location [66]. Home ranges in New York may average 4.35 to 17.20 acres (1.76-6.96 ha) [52]. Home range size of eastern box turtles in Virginia averaged 19.5 acres (7.9 ha) [79]. On average, home ranges of eastern box turtles ranged between 4.65 acres (1.88 ha) and 5.58 acres (2.26 ha) in Tennessee [31].

COVER REQUIREMENTS:
Forest floor components utilized by eastern box turtles include litter, natural depressions, soft soils, brush, and woody debris. Eastern box turtles often seek shelter by digging a form in moist soil or leaf litter. They sleep within forms at night and rest in them during the day. Their carapaces are partially to completely covered by soil, litter, or vegetation while in the form [71]. The average depth of forms in Arkansas was 0.21 inch (0.53 cm) below the surface [63]. Other cover, such as brush piles, woody debris, briar patches, and tangled vines is utilized throughout the day [71]. Hatchling and juvenile eastern box turtles often hide under leaf litter, which does not offer protection against fire [34]. The microhabitat in which neonate eastern box turtles were found had significantly more leaf litter (p=0.007), less herbaceous cover (p<0.001), and shorter vegetation (p<0.001) than random sites. Neonate eastern box turtles were found at microsites with high light intensity and low canopy cover, which led to higher temperatures than at nearby microsites [38].

The most important habitat features for hibernating eastern box turtles include cavities or natural depressions (such as stump holes and other hollows) filled with deep litter, as well as soft soils, thick brush, and woody debris [12,14,24,73]. Some eastern box turtles overwinter in depressions along gully bottoms and hillsides [12]. As winter gets progressively colder, eastern box turtles dig deeper into litter and soil to gain more protection from cold [12]. Snow cover helps insulate hibernating turtles [1]. In rare circumstances, eastern box turtles successfully hibernate while submerged in a stream or pond [11,44]. Eastern box turtles may also utilize burrows dug by other wildlife [34]. Juveniles that hatch late in the season may overwinter in the nest [52]. Multiple eastern box turtles are occasionally found overwintering in the same location [12].

FOOD HABITS:
In general, eastern box turtles will eat anything edible that fits into their mouths [23]. Examples include fungi, snails and slugs (Gastropoda), insects (Insecta), spiders (Arachnida), centipedes (Chilopoda), millipedes (Diplopoda), earthworms (Annelida), carrion, and vegetation [10,23,48,71,74]. Fungi may comprise 10% to 55% of the eastern box turtle diet [10,71,74]. In Kentucky, snails and slugs comprised and average of 52.5% of the diet by volume [10]. Consuming carrion appears common and includes reptile, amphibian, mammal, bird, and fish carcasses [48]. Specific examples include eastern racers (Coluber constrictor), Fowler's toads (Bufo fowleri), eastern ribbonsnakes (Thamnophis sauritus), and red-bellied snakes (Storeria occipitomaculata) [48]. An eastern box turtle was once seen feeding on a cow (Bos taurus) carcass [13]. Eastern box turtles have been observed eating dead toads (Bufo spp.) [58]. An eastern box turtle in Oklahoma was observed preying upon plains leopard frog (Rana blairi) tadpoles in a dry pond [7]. Dead rats (Rattus spp.) are eaten by captive eastern box turtles [1].

Plant materials eaten by eastern box turtles include leaves, berries, roots, flower buds, and seeds [10,23,48,71,74]. Eastern box turtles have been observed eating half-flower (Scaevola taccaca) berries, cactus (Cactaceae) fruits, and seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera) in Florida [23]. Eastern box turtles consume and disperse seeds of pond-apple (Annona glabra), Florida silver palm (Coccothrinax argentata), fig (Ficus spp.), redgal, (Morinda umbellata), sapodilla (Manilkara zapoda), crowngrass (Paspalum spp.), mangroveberry (Psidium longipes), Everglades greenbrier (Smilax coriacea), Key thatch palm (Thrinax morrisii), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), and Long Key locustberry (Byrsonima lucida) [51]. They may also consume and disperser seeds of jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema spp.), mayapple (Podophyllum petatum), black cherry (Prunus serotina), summer grape (Vitis aestivalis), common elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis), black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), blue ridge blueberry (Vaccinium vacillans), white mulberry (Morus alba), American pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), Indian strawberry (Duchesnea indica), Virginia strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), blackberry (Rubus spp.), muscadine grape (V. rotundifolia), and frost grape (V. vulpina) [8]. Other vegetative foods of eastern box turtles include fox grape (V. labrusca), cherry (Prunus spp.), pear (Pyrus spp.,) sweetroot (Osmorhiza spp.), American wintergreen (Pyrola americana), groundcherry (Physalis spp.), grasses, and mosses [8,48,71,74].

PREDATORS:
Common mammalian predators of box turtles are northern raccoons (Procyon lotor), skunks (Mephitis mephitis and Spilogale spp.), American minks (Mustela vison), coyotes (Canis latrans), domestic and feral dogs (Canis familiaris), and rats (Rattus spp.) [2,35]. Other potential predators include American badgers (Taxidea taxis), Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana), foxes (Vulpes and Urocyon spp.), nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus), and weasels (Mustela spp.) [35]. Birds that prey upon eastern box turtles include American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos), Mississippi kites (Ictinia mississippiensis), barn owls (Tyto alba), herring gulls (Larus argentatus), and turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) [35,46].

The shells of young box turtles are not strongly ossified until they reach several years of age, making them vulnerable to predators [26]. Hatchling box turtles may fall prey to shrews, birds, eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus), bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana), and snakes [4,44,53]. Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix), cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus), eastern racers (Coluber constrictor), and other snakes may swallow young eastern box turtles whole [35,47,56].

Eastern box turtle eggs are preyed upon by snakes such as scarletsnakes (Cemophora coccinea), hog-nosed snakes (Heterodon spp.), common kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula), pinesnakes (Pituophis melanoleucus), and eastern ratsnakes (Elaphe obsoleta), as well as ants and other invertebrates [2,35,58].

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Eastern box turtles were observed less frequently in a clearcut than in forest-clearcut edge and control habitats in an gum-willow oak-green ash (Nyssa-Liquidambar spp.-Q. phellos-Fraxinus pennsylvanica) swamp in South Carolina, although the total number of observations in each habitat was very low [61].

The biggest threats to eastern box turtles are habitat loss and fragmentation. Since the arrival of Europeans, eastern box turtle habitat has been altered or lost through agriculture and urbanization. These activities have isolated eastern box turtle populations and have limited food, water, and mating opportunities. Additionally, eastern box turtles living near forest edges are more vulnerable to predation by northern raccoons and domestic dogs. Other major threats are automobiles, farm and mowing equipment, and the pet trade. Thousands of eastern box turtles are killed each year while trying to cross roads. Some motorists deliberately run over eastern box turtles for sport. Many more are run over by people mowing their lawns and clearing land. Often, eastern box turtles cannot be seen in tall vegetation. Finally, eastern box turtles are popular pets. Individuals are frequently picked up and taken home or sold through pet stores. Removing individuals from the wild reduces the genetic diversity and reproductive potential of a population [21].

FIRE EFFECTS AND USE

SPECIES: Terrapene carolina
DIRECT FIRE EFFECTS ON ANIMALS:
Fire mortality for the eastern box turtle can be highly variable. For instance, after a prescribed fire in a tallgrass prairie habitat in Missouri, 22 eastern box turtles were found alive and 20 were dead [39]. Babbitt and Babbitt [3] discovered 17 % mortality in an eastern box turtle population in Florida after what was probably a wildfire. The study site was located near the Everglades where prefire vegetation was characterized by "thick undergrowth" [3]. In Oklahoma, 25 eastern box turtles and ornate box turtles (T. ornata) were found dead after a fire, while only 3 box turtles (Terrapene spp.) were found alive [6]. Allard [2] suggested that spring fires may be detrimental to eastern box turtles when they become active after hibernation. This statement was based on carcasses discovered in burned areas at this time of year, although data on eastern box turtles killed in such fires were not given. No eastern box turtles were captured in a prescribed burn site in Maryland. However, captures were very low in the cut-over site, white oak-willow oak-red maple (Quercus alba-Q. phellos-Acer rubrum) forest, and loblolly pine-mixed hardwood forest [54]. The low capture success in this study limits the inferences that can be drawn in regards to the effects of fire on eastern box turtles.

Ernst and others [34] suggested that eastern box turtles occupying burrows likely escape fire completely. However, some eastern box turtles that died in an apparent wildfire in Florida were found in burrows [3]. Hatchling and juvenile eastern box turtles appear to hide under litter, which exposes them to fire, rather than burrowing or creating forms[34].

Eastern box turtles appear incapable of escaping advancing fires, so they are frequently found with burn scars [3,13,34]. Many eastern box turtles that survive fire while in their forms are badly burned, often with extensive damage to the shell [3,34]. Eastern box turtles can regenerate part to all of damaged or burned shells [64,68]. The ability of eastern box turtles to regenerate their shells after being burned is possibly an adaptation for survival in fire-prone environments [68].

HABITAT-RELATED FIRE EFFECTS:
Data collected on the effects of fire on eastern box turtle habitat are limited. Frequent fires may limit the distribution or population size of eastern box turtles in some areas. This may be especially true in Florida [13]. Schwartz and Schwartz [65] determined that spring fires may burn off leaf litter covering hibernating eastern box turtles, exposing them to freezing temperatures. Since eastern box turtles show a preference for forested and other woody habitats (see Preferred Habitat), fires that reduce or eliminate forested habitats could be detrimental to eastern box turtle populations. However, eastern box turtles are found in successional habitats [54,60,65], which indicates they could adjust to changing landscapes that are caused by fire.

The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where the eastern box turtle is important. For further information, see the FEIS review of the dominant species listed below.

Community or ecosystem Dominant species Fire return interval range (years)
maple-beech Acer-Fagus spp. 684-1,385 [16,77]
silver maple-American elm Acer saccharinum-Ulmus americana <5 to 200
sugar maple Acer saccharum >1,000 [77]
bluestem prairie Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium <10 [49,59]
bluestem-Sacahuista prairie Andropogon littoralis-Spartina spartinae <10 [59]
birch Betula spp. 80-230 [75]
sugarberry-America elm-green ash Celtis laevigata-Ulmus americana-Fraxinus pennsylvanica <35 to 200
Atlantic white-cedar Chamaecyparis thyoides 35 to >200
beech-sugar maple Fagus spp.-Acer saccharum >1,000
black ash Fraxinus nigra <35 to 200 [77]
green ash Fraxinus pennsylvanica <35 to >300 [33,77]
cedar glades Juniperus virginiana 3-22 [42,59]
yellow-poplar Liriodendron tulipifera <35
shortleaf pine Pinus echinata 2-15
shortleaf pine-oak Pinus echinata-Quercus spp. <10
slash pine Pinus elliottii 3-8
slash pine-hardwood Pinus elliottii-variable <35
sand pine Pinus elliottii var. elliottii 25-45 [77]
South Florida slash pine Pinus elliottii var. densa 1-15 [57,69,77]
longleaf-slash pine Pinus palustris-P. elliottii 1-4 [57,77]
longleaf pine-scrub oak Pinus palustris-Quercus spp. 6-10
Table Mountain pine Pinus pungens <35 to 200 [77]
pitch pine Pinus rigida 6-25 [9,45]
pocosin Pinus serotina 3-8
pond pine Pinus serotina 3-8 [77]
eastern white pine Pinus strobus 35-200 [75,77]
eastern white pine-northern red oak-red maple Pinus strobus-Quercus rubra-Acer rubrum 35-200
loblolly pine Pinus taeda 3-8
loblolly-shortleaf pine Pinus taeda-P. echinata 10 to <35
Virginia pine Pinus virginiana 10 to <35
Virginia pine-oak Pinus virginiana-Quercus spp. 10 to <35
sycamore-sweetgum-American elm Platanus occidentalis-Liquidambar styraciflua-Ulmus americana <35 to 200 [77]
eastern cottonwood Populus deltoides <35 to 200 [59]
quaking aspen-paper birch Populus tremuloides-Betula papyrifera 35-200 [32,77]
black cherry-sugar maple Prunus serotina-Acer saccharum >1,000
oak-hickory Quercus-Carya spp. <35
northeastern oak-pine Quercus-Pinus spp. 10 to <35 [77]
oak-gum-cypress Quercus-Nyssa spp.-Taxodium distichum 35 to >200 [57]
southeastern oak-pine Quercus-Pinus spp. <10
white oak-black oak-northern red oak Quercus alba-Q. velutina-Q. rubra <35
northern pin oak Quercus ellipsoidalis <35
bear oak Quercus ilicifolia <35
bur oak Quercus macrocarpa <10 [77]
oak savanna Quercus macrocarpa/Andropogon gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium 2-14 [59,77]
chestnut oak Quercus prinus 3-8 [77]
northern red oak Quercus rubra 10 to <35 [77]
post oak-blackjack oak Quercus stellata-Q. marilandica <10
black oak Quercus velutina <35
live oak Quercus virginiana 10 to<100 [77]
cabbage palmetto-slash pine Sabal palmetto-Pinus elliottii <10 [57,77]
blackland prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Nassella leucotricha <10
Fayette prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Buchloe dactyloides <10 [77]
eastern hemlock-yellow birch Tsuga canadensis-Betula alleghaniensis 100-240 [75,77]

FIRE USE:
Fire at any time of year appears to be harmful to eastern box turtles since they are unable to escape [3,13,34]. Fire mortality has not been studied extensively, but mortality is consistently high in studies that have examined the effects of fire on eastern box turtle populations [3,6,39]. Given the high mortality rate, frequent fires may severely reduce an eastern box turtle population [13]. However, given that at least a few individuals appear to survive fire, a turtle population may be able to recover if the site has a long fire return interval and the forested habitat has not been greatly reduced.

High-severity fires that kill trees and scorch canopies would likely be detrimental to eastern box turtles since they favor forests [6,12,17,19,31,52,54,60,63,65,70,71]. The removal of the litter layer by fire could also be detrimental because litter is used extensively for cover throughout the year [12,38,63]. The adverse affects of removing litter from the forest floor early in the year would probably be short-term if the leaves in the canopy fell later in the year. However, an autumn fire occurring after most leaves have fallen would have more severe effects on eastern box turtles since a deep litter layer is crucial during hibernation [12,14,24,73]. Timing of fire may be less of a problem in Florida since eastern box turtles typically do not hibernate in that location [35]. More research is needed to address these possibilities.

Research on the effects of fire on eastern box turtle populations and habitat is lacking. Concern for the eastern box turtle already exists over populations that have been isolated through habitat fragmentation [21]. More research is needed to determine if fire in these habitat fragments would be detrimental to the isolated eastern box turtle populations.

Terrapene carolina: REFERENCES


1. Allard, H. A. 1948. The eastern box-turtle and its behavior. Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science. 23: 307-321. [62038]
2. Allard, H. A. 1949. The eastern box-turtle and its behavior. Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science. 24(2): 146-152. [61841]
3. Babbitt, Lewis H.; Babbitt, Corinne H. 1951. A herpetological study of burned-over areas in Dade County, Florida. Copeia. 1: 79. [34389]
4. Belzer, William R.; Seibert, Susan; Atkinson, Benjamin. 2002. Putative chipmunk predation of juvenile eastern box turtles. Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter. 5: 8-9. [62376]
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