Movement and habitat use of two aquatic turtles (Graptemys geographica and Trachemys scripta) in an urban landscape

Travis J. Ryan
Christopher A. Conner
Brooke A. Douthitt
Sean C. Sterrett
Carmen M. Salsbury, Butler University


Our study focuses on the spatial ecology and seasonal habitat use of two aquatic turtles in order to understand the manner in which upland habitat use by humans shapes the aquatic activity, movement, and habitat selection of these species in an urban setting. We used radiotelemetry to follow 15 female Graptemys geographica (common map turtle) and each of ten male and female Trachemys scripta (red-eared slider) living in a man-made canal within a highly urbanized region of Indianapolis, IN, USA. During the active season (between May and September) of 2002, we located 33 of the 35 individuals a total of 934 times and determined the total range of activity, mean movement, and daily movement for each individuals. We also analyzed turtle locations relative to the upland habitat types (commercial, residential, river, road, woodlot, and open) surrounding the canal and determined that the turtles spent a disproportionate amount of time in woodland and commercial habitats and avoided the road-associated portions of the canal. We also located 21 of the turtles during hibernation (February 2003), and determined that an even greater proportion of individuals hibernated in woodland-bordered portions of the canal. Our results clearly indicate that turtle habitat selection is influenced by human activities; sound conservation and management of turtle populations in urban habitats will require the incorporation of spatial ecology and habitat use data.