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Spotted turtle use of a culvert under relocated Route 44 in Carver, Massachusetts

  • Author(s): Kaye, Delia R.J.
  • Walsh, Kevin M.
  • Rulison, Eric L.
  • Ross, Christopher C.
  • et al.
Abstract

A new highway alignment for relocated Route 44 in Carver, Massachusetts, resulted in the direct alteration of 2.5 acres and indirect alteration of 3.9 acres of habitat for three statelisted turtle species: the wood turtle (Clemmys insculpta), spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata), and eastern box turtle (Terrapene c. carolina). As part of the mitigation requirements for impacts to rare species habitat, the Massachusetts Highway Department (MassHighway) conducted a two year preconstruction study to determine the habitat preferences and seasonal movements of the statelisted species. The study determined that no wood turtles were present in the study area, that there was a large but declining population of box turtles, and that two highly used spotted turtle habitats would be bisected by the proposed highway entrance ramp. An intermittent stream channel proposed to be piped under the new entrance ramp was identified as a primary travel corridor between the two habitats. Based on the findings of the preconstruction study, MassHighway identified a simple solution to allow the stream channel to continue to provide a migratory corridor for spotted turtles. To achieve this goal, MassHighway increased the proposed culvert size from a 24inch pipe to a 6foot by 6foot box culvert. In the spring and summer of 2004, postconstruction monitoring was conducted to determine the effectiveness of the culvert as a spotted turtle crossing structure. Nine turtles were fitted with radio transmitters and thread bobbins and followed three times per week in the spring and early summer, and once per week in the late summer to determine culvert effectiveness. Direct evidence (thread trails, visual observation) was documented for seven turtles, and indirect evidence (radio telemetry points on both sides of the culvert, visual observation) was documented for 13 turtles, confirming the use of the culvert as a crossing structure. A future study is recommended to document potential effects of traffic and noise on the spotted turtle population, continued use of the culvert, and potential changes to rare species habitat from the highway construction.

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