The Eastern Box Turtle Conservation Plan
Fisheries and Wildlife Board conducted an informational meeting for
the public on the proposed Eastern Box Turtle Conservation
Plan on Wednesday, May 18, 2011, which opened a 60-day comment period
for the public to review and submit comments on the plan. Currently,
the Division is reviewing comments received during that comment period.
The plan has been developed by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
(DFW) pursuant to the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, M.G.L. c.
131A, (MESA) and DFW's MESA regulations at 321 CMR 10.26 which states
that "The Division may develop and issue a conservation plan for
a State-listed Species of Special Concern whenever the Division determines
that such a plan will be an effective means of ensuring the long term
viability and protection of the species in the Commonwealth."
Unlike most other turtles in the northeastern United States, the Eastern Box Turtle is primarily an upland species, inhabiting a variety of upland habitats and shallow wetlands, both forested and open. The Eastern Box Turtle is listed as a species of Special Concern in Massachusetts, where it is at the northeastern edge of its range. In Massachusetts, box turtles occur at low population densities, primarily in the southeast (South Shore and Cape Cod) and the Connecticut River Valley.
Threats to the Eastern Box Turtle are numerous and include habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation due to development, vehicular traffic, heavy equipment used for farming and other types of land management, illegal collection, unnaturally high levels of predation, ATVs, disease, climate change, and natural disturbances. These threats are exacerbated by the fact that box turtles reach maturity late in life and are poor reproducers; therefore even small increases in adult mortality due to factors such as roads can destabilize populations as more turtles simply don't live long enough to successfully reproduce.
While box turtles in Massachusetts are very much in need of continued protection and stepped up conservation action, box turtles present a particular challenge because they require fairly large blocks of intact habitat and make extensive use of uplands. At the same time, we now have a unique opportunity to proactively protect key box turtle habitat areas in the Commonwealth, while box turtles are still reasonably widespread in certain portions of the state-and have not yet declined to the point where they merit "Endangered" or "Threatened" status. By taking a proactive and innovative approach to conservation and regulation, this plan sets the stage for more effective statewide box turtle conservation.
The Eastern Box Turtle Conservation Plan Outline
For ease of viewing or downloading, we recommend clicking on individual sections below. All sections are in PDF format and require the free Acrobat Reader from Adobe.