From Forests to Grasslands: Life-History, Road Mortality, and Genetic Diversity of Box Turtles (pp. 291-314)
Authors: (James C. Cureton II and P. Raelynn Deaton, University of Oklahoma, OK, USA, and others)
Abstract: Increased human population growth and encroachment into natural ecosystems have put a major strain on turtle populations worldwide. One outcome of human encroachment, roads and highways, is one of the leading causes of turtle mortality. Box turtles may be one of the most vulnerable groups of turtles due to their frequent road encounters and life-history strategies that do not allow for rapid population growth.
We have attempted to address three issues relevant to the long-term coexistence of humans and box turtles: (1) the vulnerability of box turtles to human encroachment, (2) the negative effects of humans on box turtle populations, and (3) how citizens and scientists can work together to conserve box turtle populations in urban environments. Simulations, road surveys, genetic assays, and diet analyses, indicate that the biggest issue facing box turtles in urban habitats may be road mortality and/or habitat loss.
Road mortality can potentially remove more turtles from a population than can be replaced through reproduction alone. Habitat loss removes all habitable environments providing turtles with no area for foraging or shelter.
Feasible and cost-effective conservation strategies include public education and wildlife fences. We feel that if immediate conservation measures are taken for vulnerable populations, box turtles have a chance of recovery and will be sustainable for many generations to come.