Distribution, Status, and Habitat Use of Spotted Turtles in Ohio

The Spotted Turtle is a small freshwater turtle that inhabits shallow-water wetlands of the east coast and the Great Lakes Region.  These wetlands may include bogs, fens, wet prairies, vernal pools, the margins of ponds and lakes, or even roadside ditches.  Individuals often use multiple small seasonal wetlands and may spend as much as 74% of their time in upland areas. 

Seasonal activity is greatest in May and April, although individuals may occasionally be active as early as January, if conditions permit.  Nesting activity peaks in early June and is usually followed by a period of summer dormancy (estivation).  During this time, Spotted Turtles usually create and crawl into “forms,” depressions in heavy organic soils, leaf litter, stump holes or other such areas where they remain mostly inactive.

In Ohio, the Spotted Turtle is known from the southwest, northwest, and northeast portions of the state. Of the 34 townships where the Spotted Turtle has been reported in northeast Ohio, 28 consist of a collection or report from a single year.  Twelve townships have not had a reported Spotted Turtle observation in 25 years or more.  Unfortunately, there is no historical information concerning the prevalence of Spotted Turtles from northeastern Ohio, and, therefore, no way to know how much more uncommon the species has become in the region. 

In addition to the surveys in northeast Ohio, I have extensive experience with Spotted Turtle populations within the Oak Openings Region of northwest Ohio.  A radiotelemetry study in 2002 identified nesting and overwintering locations for individuals in one population. 

Captured turtles are photographed and permanently marked with a Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT tag) to allow for future identification.  By employing this mark-recapture methodology, I can estimate population sizes, growth rates, and important demographic parameters of the population.

In 2011, I will be examining the distribution and habitat use of Spotted Turtles in relation to restoration of twigrush wet prairie habitat by The Nature Conservancy and The Metroparks of the Toledo Area as part of a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grant.  As with the Blanding's Turtle research, I will be using automated GPS dataloggers to record the location of turtles multiple times each day.