Revisiting the hypothesis of sex-biased turtle road mortality
Davy, Christina M.
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Road mortality poses a major threat to turtle populations. Several studies have suggested that the terrestrial movements associated with nesting increase this risk for females. The Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC) is home to the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, which admits 900 or more turtles a year, with road injuries the primary cause of admission. We tested the hypothesis that road mortality in turtles is female-biased using data from injured Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata), Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina), Blanding’s Turtles (Emydoidea blandingii), and Northern Map Turtles (Graptemys geographica) collected over about 126 000 km2 and admitted to OTCC’s hospital from January 2013 to October 2017. There was no difference in the number of male and female admissions of Midland Painted, Blanding’s, or Snapping Turtles (P > 0.05); however, more female Northern Map Turtles than males were admitted (P < 0.001). Admission of female turtles peaked in June during the nesting season, but male admissions were more evenly distributed throughout the season. Our admissions data provide a temporally unbiased and geographically broad snapshot of turtle–vehicle interactions that can directly inform conservation and management policies. Although our data are not equivalent to mortality rates, these results demonstrate that vehicle strikes can have a substantial impact on both female and male turtles.