Long-term telemetry study monitoring health parameters and behaviour of eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) released from treatment and rehabilitation


  • Sarah Zurbachen North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Holly Amato North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Emily Tucker-Retter North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Ronald Kent Passingham North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Gregory A. Lewbart North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine




Telemetry, box turtle, Terrapene carolina carolina, wildlife rehabilitation, release


In this pilot study, 16 rehabilitated eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) had radio transmitters attached to their carapace and were being monitored for the life of the transmitter (average lifespan of 283 days). Turtles in this study were presented to North Carolina State University’s Turtle Rescue Team (TRT), an organization that cares for wild, injured and ill turtles, to triage, rehabilitate and release them back into the wild. In the years from 2005 to 2014, 897 turtles were released after treatment, which accounted for 47.1% of admissions; this percentage remains the trend. There has never been a long-term study tracking the survival and health of turtles once released from TRT’s care. At the study’s conclusion, one turtle was successfully followed for the entire tracking period. Three turtles were lost after a period of torpor (a state of inactivity during the winter months). Three turtles died sometime after release (mean 86 days after release). Five turtles have not been found since their release and are believed to have travelled a significant distance from their release site. Three turtles were found once after release, but not in consequent searches. One of the radio transmitters is known to have stopped emitting a signal for unknown reasons. Most commonly, the turtles have been found motionless and unboxed. All of the turtles located were found within 722 m of their release sites. This study is the first step in developing more effective protocols to estimate the survivability and behaviour of the turtles released from rehabilitation settings.


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How to Cite

Zurbachen, S., Amato, H., Tucker-Retter, E., Passingham, R. K., & Lewbart, G. A. (2023). Long-term telemetry study monitoring health parameters and behaviour of eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) released from treatment and rehabilitation. Wildlife Rehabilitation Bulletin, 41(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.53607/wrb.v41.252