Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Craig Harper

Committee Members

Joseph D. Clark, R. Dwayne Elmore


Fire is a natural disturbance that was once prevalent throughout the Southeast (Lorimer 2001, Spetich et al. 2011, Ryan et al. 2013). Although many species are adapted to frequent fire, it is important to understand fire effects on nontarget species. I used very high frequency (VHF) transmitters to evaluate home range, resource selection, and the effects of 17 prescribed fires on 118 eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) across three areas in east Tennessee. Average annual survival of 82 eastern box turtles during 2016–17 was 0.95 ± 0.03 (SE), whereas survival of 109 eastern box turtles during 2017–18 was 0.94 ± 0.02. I used 7,730 and 1,225 telemetry locations from 100 individuals to develop home range estimates and resource-selection models, respectively. Average minimum convex polygon and 50% and 95% kernel density estimate home ranges were 9.3 ha ± 3.0, 1.5 ha ± 0.6, and 8.3 ha ± 2.9, respectively. Eastern box turtles selected areas with increased litter depth, increased bramble cover, increased coarse woody debris cover, increased visual obstruction, and greater numbers of 10- and 100-hr fuels than would be expected at random. Individuals were less likely to select areas with reduced vegetation cover. Average annual survival of eastern box turtles occurring in management units during a prescribed fire event was 0.90 ± 0.04, whereas average annual survival for those that did not occur in a burn unit during a prescribed fire was 0.98 ± 0.01. My results indicate eastern box turtles are susceptible to prescribed fire, especially fires occurring during the early portion of their active season (Mar–May). Wildlife managers can increase habitat quality for eastern box turtles by increasing bramble cover, visual obstruction, coarse woody debris cover, and litter depth. Prescribed fire, herbicide application, and mechanical treatment can be used to manipulate vegetation to accomplish those objectives, but prescribed fire practitioners should avoid early growing-season prescribed fire where box turtles are a concern.

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