Cues used by Predators to Detect Freshwater Turtle Nests may Persist Late into Incubation

Julia L. Riley, Jacqueline D. Litzgus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have found that turtle nest depredation is concentrated immediately post-oviposition, likely because cues alerting predators to nest presence are most obvious during this time. In algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, we examined the frequency of nest depredation during the incubation period for snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina [Linnaeus, 1758]) and Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata [agassiz, 1857]). Contrary to most past findings, nest depredation occurred throughout the incubation period for both species. In fact, 83% and 86% of depredation interactions with snapping and Painted Turtle nests, respectively, occurred more than a week after oviposition at our study site. Peaks in nest depredation (weeks with ≥10% nest depredation) occurred late in incubation and may have coincided with hatching. Trail cameras deployed at four nesting sites revealed six predator species interacting with nests. The presence of predators at nest sites increased late in the incubation period indicating a persistence or renewal (from hatching) of cues; additional research is necessary to determine the nature of these cues. These findings have implications for both research and turtle conservation. Further research should examine the relationship between temporal changes in predator species' density and patterns of nest depredation. additionally, in areas where protective nest caging is used as a species recovery action, it may be important to ensure that cages remain in place throughout the incubation period until emergence of hatchlings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-188
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Field-Naturalist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes



  • Algonquin Provincial Park
  • Chelydra serpentina
  • Chrysemys picta marginata
  • Ecology
  • Midland Painted Turtles
  • Nest depredation
  • Ontario
  • Predator detection
  • Predators
  • Snapping Turtles
  • Species recovery
  • Turtles

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