2003: The Movements of Musk Turtles in Lake Matoaka

Katie Andre (Biology)

Over the summer of 2003, a behavioral study was conducted concerning the movements of musk turtles (Sternotherus odoratus), throughout Lake Matoaka and especially between the lake's two arms. Through the movement of turtles from one arm of the lake to the other, I wanted to determine whether turtles returned to their original capture sites over a distance > 1 km. Unbaited crab pots were used to catch the turtles. Ten sites were set up along the inside and outside shores of the lake; with eight sites containing one trap and two displacement sites containing three traps each. One displacement site was at the top of the east arm of the lake and the other at the top of the west arm. When any turtle was caught, its weight, length, width and number were recorded. Using binary code, each turtle had a unique number notched with a file on the edge of its shell. For six weeks of the project, turtles caught at a displacement site were moved to the second displacement site on the other arm of the lake. Turtles caught at any other of the sites were released where caught. For the remaining three weeks, all turtles were released where they were captured. Of more than 400 turtles captured, I found that approximately one out of every twenty-five displaced turtles returned home, most being males. Further data analysis will include mapping out turtle movements to obtain a better idea of where they were going around the lake, and comparing movements made by males versus females and between the east versus the west arm of the lake.