Effectiveness of head-starting as a management tool for establishing a population of Blanding's turtles
Green, Jared Michael
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Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) are facing a variety of anthropogenic threats that interfere with their natural life history cycle, decreasing population sustainability. To combat diminished populations, a repatriation project is underway using annual translocations of hatchlings from a donor site to the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. To increase first-year survivorship (which is typically low in turtles), 52% of translocated hatchlings were head-started (raised in captivity for nine months post-hatching). We conducted mark-recapture efforts and used a Cormack-Jolly-Seber (CJS) analysis to estimate apparent survival of direct-released hatchlings (released shortly after hatching) and head-started hatchlings. We examined post-release site fidelity and habitat selection by monitoring a subset of individuals through radio telemetry. We found that head-starts first year post-release apparent survival was nearly six times higher than direct-releases. Both direct-releases and head-starts displayed site fidelity when there was a variety of habitat types available at the release site to select from.