After a glorious 11 days of turtle catching, the final count came out to 169 unique caught turtles this year. This makes a total of more than 600 marked turtles in the LCO watershed!
As always, thanks to all the wonderful people in Victory Heights who helped out in some capacity, as well as to Benji and Katelyn. You can follow the rest of my field work this summer at this blog: http://turtlecolors.wordpress.com/
See you all next summer!
I’m back in northern Wisconsin continuing this mark-recapture project in Musky Bay and Stuckey Bay of Lac Courte Oreilles. I’ve started graduate school at Dartmouth and for the last couple of months I’ve been traveling across the eastern US catching turtles and collecting data for my dissertation research.
My friend Benji has joined me this year to help catch turtles on LCO. He just graduated from Dartmouth College with a BA in Biology after doing an independent honors thesis on army ant behavior in Costa Rica.
Today he and I went to Musky Bay and Benji caught his first eight turtles! The weather was beautiful and we ended up with over 40 turtles after an hour. We’ll spend most of tomorrow processing these turtles and then will head out again to Musky or Stuckey.
As always, feel free to say hi and ask us any questions if you’re in the area!
-Beth and Benji
The last few days have been eventful. We finished up Musky Bay and Stuckey Bay with at least 25 males and females from each. These sites have the largest populations of our four sites and are the easiest to catch. We are still working on Billy Boy Flowage and Little Grindstone but don’t expect to finish before we leave this Saturday.
Over the next few days, we will focus on Little Grindstone. We pulled in our traps at Billy Boy and have captured a total of 16 turtles there. The turtles there are difficult to catch and we don’t expect to get many more.
Our recapture rates at Musky Bay and Stuckey Bay are both very good; 23.7% and 42.42%, respectively. The recapture rate is the percentage of individuals captured in a given time period that have been captured before in previous years. A good recapture rate is 10% so we are exceeding the rate necessary to obtain reliable data.
As always, feel free to leave comments or questions!
Saturday we took the day off for family events but Sunday and Monday have been great turtle-catching days! Yesterday we went to Stuckey Bay to try to catch the 11 males we need to finish off that site. We ended up catching just 7 but we expect to finish it in the next few days. We also repaired more traps yesterday and replaced them in Billy Boy this morning. Today we also went to Little Grindstone Lake. The weather was perfect but we still only managed to catch 6. Five of the 6 were recaptures from the last two years! We believe we have almost the whole population there tagged with microchips.
We also got to see a softshell turtle on E! She was basking on the road above a creek. Softshells are extremely rare to see above water, let alone basking on a public road. We were very excited but she ran into the water before we even got out of the car. Below is a picture from last year, when we caught a softshell at the Billy Boy Flowage.
Yesterday we went to Stuckey Bay and got 40 turtles! During a dramatic turtle encounter, Beth toppled her kayak but recovered quickly. We found out that the waterproof bags protecting our equipment work , at least! No turtles were harmed though Beth was very wet. We spent most of the day processing these turtles and released them in the evening. At the Billy Boy Flowage we caught a large snapping turtle in one of the traps and had to cut through the trap in order to release him. Today we got two painted turtles at Billy Boy and then captured 10 at Musky Bay. We spent most of the day repairing traps and nets and taking it easy.
We expect sunny weather the next few days so we are excited to possibly finish Musky and Stuckey Bay! The goal for each site (Musky Bay, Stuckey Bay, Little Grindstone, and Billy Boy) is 25 males and 25 females. Most populations are female-biased so we usually have to struggle to find enough males. But we are close!
-Gwendwr and Beth
We observed some parasites in several of the fecal samples collected from the turtles this year. Can anyone help us identify them? They are small, whitish worms with a pink tinge. They appear to have a sucker on one end and are about 1 cm long. Leave a comment if you know what they might be!
UPDATE: After encountering these little guys a few more times, we now realize they are baby leeches! Many of the turtles have adult leeches attached to them and some of the leeches have babies attached to their ventral surface. We rinse every turtle before placing it in clean water to collect feces, but we do not detach leeches. The ones pictured above came off after rinsing, leading us to believe they came from the fecal matter.
While researching this, I came across this cool radio program about leeches. You can listen to it here: http://www.heritageradionetwork.com/archives?tag=leech+reproduction . Scroll to the bottom and click Play.