Researchers use decoy turtles to identify predators


After finding more than 50 dead turtles on Manitoulin Island, Ontario in 2013, researchers from
Laurentian University are using decoy Blanding’s Turtles to identify possible predators. The die-off, which was thought to represent as much as 75% of this Blanding’s Turtle population, prompted investigations into the deaths and further research on the remaining population. Although ranavirus, an emerging disease of amphibians and reptiles, was a concern, testing showed little evidence of the disease, leading researchers to investigate another theory: predation. The decoy turtles were set out on the island and monitored by trail cameras in the hopes that resulting images will provide some insight into what may have killed the turtles.

Reports as of July, 2014 suggested that so far no suspects had shown up on the cameras and that several more turtles were recently found dead. Despite the deaths, however, researchers were happy to find more turtles than expected during their 2014 field season. “The good news is that in 2013 there were 30 live Blanding’s turtles, and so far for 2014 they have found 32 live Blanding’s turtles, 19 of which are the same ones from last year, but 13 brand new ones,” said lead researcher Dr. Jackie Litzgus. “I can’t imagine how large the population was before the turtle deaths.”

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