Apparent winterkill of Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
Keywords:winterkill, Painted Turtle, Chrysemys picta, mortality
Around the margin of an artificial pond in Ottawa, Ontario, we found 25 Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) that appeared to have died over the course of two winters (17 during the first winter and eight during the second). We examined meteorological data to try to determine the cause of the mortality. Summer and fall rains were only slightly below normal in both years, suggesting water levels should have been close to normal. The winter air temperature was warmer than normal and winter snowfall was slightly above normal in both years. Unseasonable weather does not appear to be responsible for the winter mortality and the pond’s maximum depth of 1.7 m should prevent freezing to the bottom. It is possible that the artificial nature of the pond creates suboptimal overwintering habitat, rendering the site an ecological trap; however, there is no direct evidence to support this theory. It is also possible that winter mortality of turtles is widespread at temperate wetlands, but that dead turtles were more detectable at this site because of the bare shoreline around the pond. Winter mass mortality events, if common, may represent an additional threat to turtle populations, which are declining from various anthropogenic threats.
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