Box Turtle Relocation Studies

Many studies have indicated that box turtles that are relocated away from thier home range seldom prosper and often die shortly after being relocated. Here are some studies that we are aware of. If you are aware of any scientific study concerning attempts to relocate box turtles, please use the CONTACT US link to let us know.

The following studies were brought to our attention by:
Harriet Forrester
Turtle Rescue of New Jersey
New Jersey State Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator

Aston, R., and G. Guyot. 2000. Chelonian
Relocation Projects and Heritage Collections,
Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter of Chelonian
Conservationists and Biologists, Issue Number 1: 18-19.

“There are many potential dangers to the animals
with relocations. These fit into three major
concerns: survivability of the relocated animal,
introduction of illnesses …, and the proximate
and ultimate effects on the behavior and
survivability of the population which is receiving the introduced stock.”

“Very serious diseases are spread from relocated tortoises…”

“In addition, how are we affecting the local
population’s fitness when animals from a more
distant gene pool are introduced?”

Belzer, W. 2002. A Nine Year Study of Eastern Box
Turtle Courtship with Implications for
Reproductive Success and Conservation in a
Translocated Population, Turtle and Tortoise
Newsletter of Chelonian Conservationists and Biologists, Issue Number 6: 17-26.

“We now know that despite many consecutive years
of intensive day-to-day monitoring, and retrieval
when animals move out of the preserve, well over
60% of the displaced turtles failed to establish
new home ranges within the confines of the 80 ha
McKeever preserve. A complete picture from our
initiation of similar studies at the much larger
Buttermilk Hill Nature Sanctuary will not be
known for many years, but in our first year of
work we already found that translocated box
turtles will abandon even this 200 ha preserve.”

Hester, J.M., S.A. Budischak, and M.E. Dorcas. In
press. The Davidson College box
turtle mark-recapture program: Urban herpetological research made possible by
citizen scientists, in Urban
Herpetology: Ecology, Conservation and
Management of Amphibians and Reptiles in Urban
and Suburban Environments, R.E. Jung and J.C. Mitchell (Eds.)

“…relocated turtles had higher mortality and
disappearance rates than resident turtles. Our
preliminary results indicate that relocated box
turtles do not quickly reestablish home ranges in
a new habitat, and may attempt to leave their
relocation site, thus raising questions about the
success of relocation as a conservation strategy for eastern box turtles.”

McDougal, James. 2000. Conservation of Tortoises
and Terrestrial Turtles. Pp. 181-206 in Turtle
Conservation (Michael W. Klemens,
ed.) Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

“Assuming that the animals are released in
appropriate habitat, there are at lease three
major problems that face these kinds of
activities (repatriation, relocation and release
programs), which are well meaning but potentially
disruptive or even lethal to the populations
involved. These problems are dispersal, genetic incompatibility, and disease.”

Ashton, R. 2001. World Experts Attend
International Conference “Relocation of Turtles
and Tortoises – Animals in Crisis”. Turtle and
Tortoise Newsletter of Chelonian Conservationists
and Biologists, Issue Number 3:19-20.

“….relocations of turtles and tortoises may well
add insult to injury to wild chelonian
populations. Apparently humane efforts by
well-meaning persons …may spread disease, disrupt
the genetics, and stress native populations…”

“Relocations can spread disease that threatens
tortoise and turtle populations.”

Rabatsky, A., and B. Blihovde. 2002. Gopher
Tortoise Die-Off at Rock Springs Run State
Reserve, Lake County, Florida. Turtle and
Tortoise Newsletter of Chelonian Conservationists
and Biologists, Issue Number 6:27-28.

“Two hypotheses may explain the presence of URTD
in a tortoise population: 1) M. agassizii may be
a naturally occurring bacterium found in
tortoises but can become pathogenic when a
tortoise is stressed (caused by habitat
fragmentation, diminished food resources,
relocation, drought, captivity, etc.); 2) URTD
may be introduced into a population when an
already infected tortoise is moved to a new site.”

Proceedings of the Northeast
Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
meeting on September 3-4, 2003. From a talk by
Kurt Buhlmann on Translocation as a Conservation
Tool: Repatriating Tortoises to Formerly Occupied Sites.

A relocation study done with 39 gopher tortoises
showed that relocation affected
reproduction. There was no reproduction in the
year after relocation, and only 5 reproduced the
year after that. They attribute this to possible stress from the relocation.

Boarman, W.I. 2002. Threats to Desert Tortoise
Populations: A Critical Review of the Literature,
Prepared for the West Mojave Planning Team, Bureau of Land Management,
U.S. Department Of The Interior, U.S. Geological
Survey, Western Ecological Research Center

“Possible problems with translocation efforts
include increased risk of mortality, spread of
disease, and reduced reproductive success.”