Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Massachusetts
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Massachusetts Project

Ecology and Conservation of Wood Turtles in the Northeast

April 2004 - December 2013


Participating Agencies

  • Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Regional Conservation Needs Grant Program
  • Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Widlife

Wood turtles are declining in Massachusetts, and across many parts of their range in eastern North America. We initiated a study of the movements and habitat use of wood turtles in western Massachusetts, a region which may still contain viable populations of the species. Telemetry data have been collected to aid in constructing an individual-based, spatially-explicit, model of the viability of populations across the state. We found that at least 8% of adult turtles are killed each year by hay-mowing operations, an unsustainable level for a k-selected species. In addition we have developed a model of wood turtle abundance based on stream gradient and flow. Both of these findings are being used to change management for wood turtles in Massachusetts and the Northeast. We are currently conducting a status assessment and developing a conservation plan for wood turtles throughout the Northeastern United States.