Although it is widely accepted that juvenile turtles experience high levels of predation, such events are rarely observed, providing limited evidence regarding predator identities and how juvenile habitat selection and availability of sensory cues to predators affects predation risk. We placed three-dimensional printed models resembling juvenile box turtles (Terrapene carolina) across habitats commonly utilized by the species at three sites within their geographical range and monitored models with motion-triggered cameras. To explore how the presence or absence of visual and olfactory cues affected predator interactions with models, we employed a factorial design where models were either exposed or concealed and either did or did not have juvenile box turtle scent applied on them. Predators interacted with 18% of models during field trials. Nearly all interactions were by mesopredators (57%) and rodents (37%). Mesopredators were more likely to attack models than rodents; most (76%) attacks occurred by raccoons (Procyon lotor). Interactions by mesopredators were more likely to occur in wetlands than edges, and greater in edges than grasslands. Mesopredators were less likely to interact with models as surrounding vegetation height increased. Rodents were more likely to interact with models that were closer to woody structure and interacted with exposed models more than concealed ones, but model exposure had no effect on interactions by mesopredators. Scent treatment appeared to have no influence on interactions by either predator group. Our results suggest raccoons can pose high predation risk for juvenile turtles (although rodents could also be important predators) and habitat features at multiple spatial scales affect predator-specific predation risk. Factors affecting predation risk for juveniles are important to consider in management actions such as habitat alteration, translocation, or predator control.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited