TURTLE TRACKS

"CATHERINE'S TRACKS"

Catherine was found on mothers day 2008 by Sparkie the turtle hunting dog. Sparkie and his friends came to Earthshine with John Rucker to find turtles before the mowing crews came in to mow the fields. The weather turned very bad so the turtles were not moving but Sparkie used his amazing nose to find only one--Catherine. Since she was found on mothers day I am naming her Catherine in honor of my mother.

Sparkie with Catherine

Catherine's adopted "guardians" are Catherine O'Neil and the Hagler family.

Catherine's stats are as follows:

Found on 5-11-08

Location: Earthshine Study site Southeast

Weight: 470g (480 with TX)

Maximum Carapace Length: 130mm

Total Plastron Length: 123mm

Age: 20+ years old but probably 60+ due to the wear on her shell.

Habitat where Catherine was found: Turtle Sanctuary, grassy edge of regenerating forest.

ID marked marginals: ABM.

Catherine's Blog

As of 11/17/2011 all Tracking logs, maps, photos and videos for the Turtle Tracks and Snake Tracks projects will now be posted on the new Earthshine Nature Programs Blog

located here. Click the "follow" link on the right side of the

blog page to receive updates as they happen.

Tracking logs before 11/17/2011 can be found below and on the tracking day index by clicking the photo below.


November 17, 2011. Catherine is resting for the winter in the exact same location where she overwintered last winter! The knowledge of this further strengthens my belief that Catherine--and probably all box turtles--have a very strong instinct to follow the same patterns every year visiting the same food, cover, water, egg-laying and over-wintering sites. This revelation has shown me that box turtles should never be moved from the locations where they are born and reside because their strong ties to certain landforms, locations and habitats will cause unimaginable stresses on the relocated animal as it searches for familiar sites in its new habitat. In relocated animals that are unable to adapt to the change, these stresses will certainly have negative health impacts resulting in disease, weight loss and eventual death. The only reason a box turtle should be moved from their native habitat is if their habitat has been destroyed and they have nowhere else to go. If a turtle must be moved it will either need to live in an appropriately constructed outdoor habitat and provided with optimum habitat requirements for a healthy life or be taken to an accredited zoo, nature center, museum or university with the adequate facilities for box turtle care. At least in this setting the animal can be used to educate the public on the value and necessity of keeping our native wildlife and wild places wild and undeveloped.

January 10, 2010. Catherine is resting for the winter in almost the exact same location where she spent the last two winters! This is very significant information as it shows me that Catherine--and probably all box turtles--have a very strong instinct to follow the same patterns every year visiting the same food, cover, water, egg-laying and over-wintering sites. This revelation has shown me that box turtles should never be moved from the locations where they are born because their strong ties to certain landforms and locations will cause unimaginable stresses on the relocated animal as it searches for familiar sites in its new habitat. In relocated animals that are unable to adapt to the change, these stresses will certainly have negative health impacts resulting in disease, weight loss and eventual death. The only reason a box turtle should be moved from their native habitat is if their habitat has been destroyed and they have nowhere else to go. If a turtle must be moved it will either need to live in an appropriately constructed outdoor habitat and provided with optimum habitat requirements for a healthy life or be taken to an accredited zoo, nature center, museum or university with the adequate facilities for box turtle care. At least in this setting the animal can be used to educate the public on the value and necessity of keeping our native wildlife and wild places wild and undeveloped.

August 24th, 2010. Tracking Catherine over these last few years has revealed to me that box turtles--at least this one older female box turtle--lead amazing and intricate lives governed by temperature, rainfall, available foods, location and subtle environmental cues that we young humans can only begin to understand. What I am beginning to know about Catherine: she follows--almost exactly--the same paths every year. When she wakes up in the spring she moves into the area we call the Turtle Sanctuary to feed and mate. She then makes her way over the ridge to the north where she homes in on a small field of only a few acres in size. It is in this tiny field where I believe Catherine lays her clutch of eggs. I believe this not because I have sen her nesting but because before she looses 40-60 grams or so after each visit to the field. that is about the weight of an average clutch of box turtle eggs! She only stays in this field for a few weeks and then makes her way back over the ridge to Earthshine where she spends the remainder of the summer in a very small area of blackberries and Multiflora Rose bushes near the barn where she feeds heavily. Then, In the fall she makes her way back to her over-wintering area in the middle of the low ropes course--almost the exact same location each year! This tells me that box turtles have exceptionally strong navigation and homing abilities. These are abilities that we humans have mostly lost. We have to rely on reading maps, compass and other technologies such as GPS. It is truly amazing to me that box turtles can navigate so precisely without any outside help. It also shows me that if you move a box turtle from it's home it will greatly confuse and stress the animal. Depending on the distance and physical barriers between the turtle and it's home it may never make it back to his home range so it is best to leave turtles where you find them unless they are in immediate danger of human activities such as crossing a road. If you find a turtle crossing the road it does not usually need rescuing*. Simply move it to the side of the road it is heading toward and place it about 30-50 feet of the road in some vegetation where it will feel secure and can hide. It will know where it is and and will go about about its important business. The bottom line is this: box turtles know where they are and they know where they are going. *If you find a turtle crossing a road and it looks like the turtle's habitat has just recently been destroyed--bulldozers and log skidders "improving" the land and so on and nowhere in the area that looks like turtle habitat--then the turtle may have just lost it's home to economic development. This may be a time when you will have to make the call to rescue the turtle. If you do you must understand that the turtle will need to be taken to a place where it will live as a captive for the rest of it's life and because of its homing instincts it cannot be transplanted to a park or other natural area--it will try to walk home. You will have to find a zoo, nature center, reptile or wildlife park that will give the turtle a good home for the rest of it's life.

May 14, 2008 Catherine was released near the point of capture (see the map below). I will track her movements 1-2 times per week in order to attempt to determine her home range and habitat use.

May 12, 2008 Catherine was fitted with a Telenax radio transmitter. The radio transmitter was painted in the same colors and patterns as her shell. The goal was to camouflage the transmitter so that it matches the shell and does not attract interested creatures that might want to bother this old turtle.

Catherine's adopted "guardians" are Catherine O'Neil and Billy and Gail Hagler and whose generous donations have made this study possible.

To view Catherine's 2011 tracking map with her past movements and current location in a new window just click HERE

To view Catherine's 2010 tracking map with her past movements and current location in a new window just click HERE

To view a zoom view of Catherine's 2010 tracking map with her past movements and current location in a new window just click HERE

To view Catherine's 2009 tracking map with her past movements and current location in a new window just click HERE

To view Catherine's 2008 tracking map in a new window just click HERE

To view a ZOOM view of Catherine's tracking map in a new window just clickHERE

NOTE: Distances and locations on the map are approximate. Exact location information will not be posted on this site due to possible poaching/trespass issues.

Observational data, movies and photos collected each time Catherine is located will be posted through the link below.

Catherine's Tracks Tracking Logs

If you would like to view Catherine's previous tracking days just click the photo link below to go to Catherine's track logs. Each tracking day has its own page for easier viewing. On each page you will find the detail data of each tracking day, photos and a often a short video of Catherine's position at the time of location. If you remember the date you tracked Catherine with me just search the log for your date to easily find information and photos/videos from the day of your turtle tracking adventure!

Click on the below photo to go to Catherine's tracking day index.


Please return often because as this study unfolds, I will update this page with more data, photos and movies documenting the journeys of Catherine the Eastern Box Turtle.

Please contact us if you have a box turtle local to the WNC area that is injured, sick, displaced or is in need of a little R & R or if you are interested in becoming a part of The Earthshine Turtle Tracks program .


CLICK HERE FOR HOMEPAGE