Eastern box turtles are one of the most recognizable animals in West Virginia, but did you know these lovable reptiles are declining in population across the state?
When wildlife populations change, we need to act quick to understand the situation so we can make effective conservation decisions. That’s why we’ve launched a citizen science project where you can help us track the distribution of eastern box turtles across the state. All you have to do to participate is reporting your box turtle sightings around your home, on the road or along hiking trails.
How you can help track West Virginia’s box turtles
Reporting box turtle sightings to us is easy. Just identify the geographic coordinates of the encounter and mark them on our map at tinyurl.com/wvboxturtle. If you want to report the sighting while you’re in the field, we suggest using the Survey 123 app on your phone. And if you snap a photo of the turtle, be sure you submit that as well.
The decline in box turtles is linked to habitat fragmentation, emerging disease, road mortality and illegal collection. By helping us collect data on box turtle locations, you’re helping us better understand their population.
Does it matter where the sighting is?
We’re interested in all observations, whether the turtle is dead or alive or encountered around your home, on the road or along hiking trails.
But if you see a box turtle on the road while you’re driving, make sure you are in a safe location and not blocking traffic before you do anything to help. If you stop and help a turtle, remember to gently lift the turtle on either side of the shell and move it to the side of the road in the direction the turtle was facing.
Whatever you do, don’t take a box turtle with you to release in a different location, such as a farm or other property. Not only is it illegal, but transporting animals often spreads wildlife disease.
What are you doing with the data you’re collecting?
Information gained from this project will allow us to better manage box turtle populations and focus conservation and outreach efforts. Your contact information and locations of box turtles will not be shared publicly in order to protect your privacy and box turtles around the state.
For more information about box turtles and other wildlife, visit wvdnr.gov.