Cues used by predators to detect freshwater turtle nests may persist late into incubation


  • Julia L. Riley Department of Biology, Laurentian University, 935 Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario P3E 2C6
  • Jacqueline D. Litzgus Department of Biology, Laurentian University, 935 Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario P3E 2C6



Snapping Turtles, Chelydra serpentina, Midland Painted Turtles, Chrysemys picta marginata, turtles, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, ecology, nest depredation, predator detection, predators, species recovery


Previous studies have found that turtle nest depredation is concentrated immediately post-oviposition, likely because cues alerting predators to nest presence are most obvious during this time. In Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, we examined the frequency of nest depredation during the incubation period for Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina [Linnaeus, 1758]) and Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata [Agassiz, 1857]). Contrary to most past findings, nest depredation occurred throughout the incubation period for both species. In fact, 83% and 86% of depredation interactions with Snapping and Painted Turtle nests, respectively, occurred more than a week after oviposition at our study site. Peaks in nest depredation (weeks with ≥10% nest depredation) occurred late in incubation and may have coincided with hatching. Trail cameras deployed at four nesting sites revealed six predator species interacting with nests. The presence of predators at nest sites increased late in the incubation period indicating a persistence or renewal (from hatching) of cues; additional research is necessary to determine the nature of these cues. These findings have implications for both research and turtle conservation. Further research should examine the relationship between temporal changes in predator species’ density and patterns of nest depredation. Additionally, in areas where protective nest caging is used as a species recovery action, it may be important to ensure that cages remain in place throughout the incubation period until emergence of hatchlings.