Spatial ecology and multi-scale habitat selection by Western Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta bellii) in an urban area

Kelsey A. Marchand, Christopher M. Somers, Ray G. Poulin


As urban centres expand, knowledge on the habitat and space use of native wildlife, particularly long-lived species, is required for proper management. Our objective was to understand space requirements and key habitat features necessary for long-term persistence of Western Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta bellii) living in a Canadian urban park. Using radio telemetry, we examined seasonal habitat selection and space use over two years, 2015–2016 (n = 23), and 2016–2017 (n = 29) in Regina, Saskatchewan. Daily movements and home ranges of males and females were smaller during emergence than during nesting or post-nesting phases of the active season. Turtles inhabiting marsh sites had 2- and 4-times larger daily movements and home ranges compared to turtles inhabiting the creek. Turtles selected the shoreline habitat over urban/parkland and open water. Turtles used marsh-shoreline habitats non-randomly, selecting accessible shoreline with large trees in the active season. In contrast, turtles used creek-shoreline habitat according to availability. Overwintering sites selected by turtles were warmer and deeper than random available sites, with no difference in dissolved oxygen level. However, water was hypoxic for most overwintering sites. Our results show that turtles range widely, requiring 20–60 ha throughout the year. Urban park areas should be managed to provide accessible shorelines with a combination of cover and open basking areas. Critically, careful attention needs to be paid to managing water depth so that over-wintering sites remain viable.


Chrysemys picta bellii; Western Painted Turtle; habitat selection; urban ecology; radio telemetry

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