Provincial and state parks are often considered to be areas that protect native flora and fauna, but parks are also used for human recreation. We assessed the impacts of human recreation on the spatial ecology and health of Sternotherus odoratus in Massasauga Provincial Park (MPP), Ontario, Canada over two field seasons. Our study site is unique in that MPP has no roads and is accessible only by air or water, thus removing the well-known detrimental effects of roads on the resident turtle populations. Using mark–recapture techniques and radio telemetry, we studied turtles in two replicated site categories: impacted and non-impacted. Impacted sites were areas with human recreational activities (e.g., camping, boating), while non-impacted sites had no designated park use and had minimal use by park visitors. We predicted that turtles would avoid humans and thus have larger home range sizes and greater movements in impacted sites. We also predicted higher mortality and injury rates caused by subsidized predators (predators whose numbers increase in the presence of human garbage such as that found at campsites) and direct encounters with humans in impacted sites. Turtles in impacted sites appeared to avoid campsites but did not have larger annual home ranges or daily movements than turtles in non-impacted sites. Injury and mortality rates did not differ statistically between site categories; however, the data suggested higher occurrences of mortalities at impacted sites, a pattern that warrants additional investigation. Our data imply that populations of S. odoratus in MPP are not severely impacted by relatively low-impact human recreation. Future studies should focus on multiple turtle species in parks to get a clearer, more general, understanding of the impacts of human recreational activities on freshwater turtles.
Measuring the Effects of Water-based Recreation on the Spatial Ecology of Eastern Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus) in a Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada
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Jolene F. Laverty, Burke Korol, Jacqueline D. Litzgus; Measuring the Effects of Water-based Recreation on the Spatial Ecology of Eastern Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus) in a Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. Copeia 1 July 2016; 104 (2): 440–447. doi: https://doi.org/10.1643/CE-15-284
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