Observations of movement patterns and habitat associations of hatchling alligator snapping turtles (Macrochelys temminckii)


Hatchling turtles are known to be cryptic and secretive; as a result, there are few species for which habitat associations and movement patterns of hatchlings and small juveniles are well understood. Such data are important because hatchlings may experience high mortality rates, making them a sensitive life stage whose success has important impacts on overall population stability. Additionally, among species in which hatchlings and adults occupy distinctly different niches, conservation of resources for both is necessary for effective management. The aim of our study was to characterize the movement patterns, habitat use, and sources of mortality of hatchling Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) in a southeastern Oklahoma, USA, stream. Movement patterns were typically characterized by an initial move away from the site of release, followed by prolonged occupancy of an area with abundant cover and shallow water. Of the 12 turtles we released, three were preyed upon by fish and seven were confirmed to be alive in mid-November, eight weeks after the study was launched. A single hatchling turtle was washed downstream during a high flow event, and we could not confirm the fate of another turtle, either because it was removed from the study area by a predator or because its transmitter failed prematurely. Surprisingly, we observed no evidence of predation by Raccoons (Procyon lotor), a common predator of hatchling turtles.



Document Type



Chelonian, Depredation, Hatchling, Reptile

Publication Date


Journal Title

Herpetological Conservation and Biology