SREL Reprint #1914





Do Flag Markers Attract Turtle Nest Predators?


Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia, Drawer E, Aiken, South Carolina 29802, USA.

Studies that monitor the fate of turtle nests often require a system that allows identification of individual nests. In many studies of turtle nests, plastic flagging is used for this purpose (J. Congdon, pers. comm.; Fowler, 1979). Because of their conspicuous nature, flags may affect visitation rates to nest sites by predators. Previous studies on potential effects of flags have focused primarily on predators of ground-nesting birds (Baker, 1978; Yahner and Wright, 1985). These studies suggested that avian predators, such as crows, do associate some types of nest markers with nest sites. However, no evidence was found that suggested mammalian predators were attracted to nest markers (Baker, 1978, 1980). Some researchers have avoided use of nest markers due to concern that markers might attract predators to bird nesting sites (Angelstam, 1986; Yahner and Cypher, 1987). However, we know of no studies that have investigated the effect of flagging on predators of turtle nests.

We examined the potential attractive and repulsive effects of plastic flagging material on turtle nest predators at Ellenton Bay, a 10 ha Carolina bay (marsh-type habitat) on the Savannah River Site in west-central South Carolina. Turtles species nesting at Ellenton Bay include Kinosternon subrubrum, Sternotherus odoratus, Pseudemys floridana, Trachemys scripta, Chelydra serpentine, and Deirochelys reticularia (Gibbons, 1970). Potential mammalian nest predators known to occur at Ellenton Bay include striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis), gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), and raccoons (Procyon lotor). Qualitafive observations (e.g., scat and tracks at depreciated nests) indicate that raccoons are the predominant above-ground nest predators.

SREL Reprint #1914

Tuberville, T.D. and V.J. Burke. 1994. Do flag markers attract turtle nest predators? Journal of Herpetology 28:514-516.

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