Exploited for food, traditional medicine, and pets, many turtle populations have been over-harvested or even extirpated from historic ranges. Most turtles possess life-history characteristics that complicate conservation efforts. These characteristics include delayed sexual maturity and high embryo and juvenile predation rates. Restoration strategies include nest protection, head-starting, and translocations. We examined short-term results of these strategies on a reintroduced population of Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) in southern Oklahoma. We released 16 hatchery-raised juveniles and 249 adult M. temminckii into pools adjacent to the Washita River near Lake Texoma on the border of Texas and Oklahoma, USA. We tracked mortality and conducted nest searches to document factors related to population sustainability. We used hoop nets to recapture individuals and track growth. We confirmed seven mortalities during 2007 and none in 2008. In 2007 we located eight nests, all of which were depredated, and 18 nests in 2008, one of which was detected before depredation and successfully protected until hatching. We compared growth rates of released juveniles and members of the same cohort that were kept in captivity. There was no significant difference in dimensional growth, but released juveniles gained more weight than those retained at the hatchery.



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Conservation, growth, head-start, mortality, predation, reintroduction

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Herpetological Conservation and Biology