Evaluation of predator-exclusion cages used in turtle conservation

Cost analysis and effects on nest environment and proxies of hatchling fitness

J. L. Riley, J. D. Litzgus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Context A main goal of conservation is to mitigate anthropogenic impacts on natural ecosystems, thus conservation tools themselves should not negatively affect target species. Predator-exclusion cages are effectively used to reduce predation of turtle nests; however, their effects on nest environment and developing hatchlings have not been examined. Aims Our study had the following four goals: (1) to examine effects of cages on the nest environment, (2) determine whether nest caging affects proxies for hatchling fitness, (3) evaluate whether nest predators preferentially interact with certain cage types, and (4) assess the cost-effectiveness of different nest caging designs. Methods In 2010 and 2011 in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, painted turtle (Chrysemys picta; n≤93) and snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina; n≤91) nests were assigned to one of three treatments (wooden-sided cages, above- and below-ground wire cages) or a control (no nest cage) and outfitted with a data logger to record incubation temperature. After emergence, hatching success and proxies of hatchling fitness were measured. Key results Nest temperature, hatching success, frequency of hatchling deformities and locomotor performance did not differ among cage treatments. However, hatchling body condition differed among treatments; wooden-sided and below-ground cages had the most positive influence on body condition in painted and snapping turtles, respectively. Predator interactions did not differ among treatments, and wooden-sided cages were the most inexpensive to construct. Conclusions Nest cages did not alter the nest environment from natural conditions but did alter hatchling body condition, and nest caging affected species differently. Implications Nest cages are known to reduce nest depredation, and our data indicated that, in general, nest cages also do not affect the nest environment or proxies for hatchling fitness. Thus, our findings indicated that cages are effective conservation tools that do not present secondary deleterious effects on potential recruitment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-511
Number of pages13
JournalWildlife Research
Volume40
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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