Friday, June 22, 2012

Eastern Box Turtle at Trout Brook Valley

On a guided hike for birds in the Aspetuck Land Trust's Trout Brook Valley on May 27 Twan and the attendees were able to uncover this Eastern Box Turtle!

It may not have been the target of the day, but it was a very important find. There are many areas in the preserve that support suitable habitat for the species, which has a 'Special Concern' status in the Connecticut Endangered Species Act. While we can assess whether or not the habitat of a given area should contain or would be able to support a species, actually finding one is very important, especially when they are state-listed. This turtle will now become a permanent listing in the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's Natural Diversity Data Base.

Box turtles have a very limited range, but they require at the very least a corridor to be able to move through when it comes time to nest and mate. Trout Brook Valley's expansive habitat and woodlands interspersed with some openings in the forest should support some of the species for a considerable time at least. In the future habitat fragmentation on a large scale may become a problem for the species if it surrounds tracts of preserved lands like Trout Brook Valley and if there are not enough individuals currently in it. This has occurred in smaller habitats over most of Connecticut, necessitating the listing it currently has.

When I was a child, I would see many of the species all over my grandparent's backyard, with mature woodlands and wetlands plus a power line cut not far away, a perfect mix of habitats to cater to their various needs. I have not seen one in the area in quite some time now. There are likely a few that remain that elude my eyes, but development all over the area has probably cut them off from some other populations, and the remaining turtles will dwindle to none in time.

This is only one of the reasons why having sizable blocks of habitat, hundreds or thousands of acres, set aside for all kinds of wildlife and connected to other areas is so critical to their survival. If we do not maintain these corridors then those who cannot fly like the birds will not have a viable or sustainable population, being expatriated from the state entirely.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo © Twan Leenders and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

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