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Editor's Notes

Michelle Weaver was recipient of an ORCA Travel Grant to present this research at the 2023 North American Box Turtle Conservation Workshop.


Turtle racing involves the public capturing and using largely wild-caught box turtles (Terrapene spp.). Turtle races can be standalone events or a part of larger family events (e.g. festivals). Turtle races are legal in most states because of a lack of regulations and/or funding to enforce regulations that may exist. We lack information on the potential effects (e.g. disease transmission, survival, movements, and general health) of races on the turtles that could help support the implementation of regulations. Our objective is to understand the short-term and long-term health and behavioral effects of turtle races on eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina). We collected 29 box turtles from a race held in Kentucky. We completed physical exams, including collecting blood samples and oral/cloacal swabs, on each turtle. We quarantined the turtles for two weeks and then, following negative PCR test results for ranavirus (FV3), released 19 turtles (weight > 400 g), with attached transmitters, onto a national wildlife refuge in Kentucky. We also captured eight native box turtles from the same release location and followed the same procedure done with the race turtles. Since release, we have been tracking turtles weekly and have completed four total health evaluations. We are currently completing laboratory analyses associated with testing for other diseases besides ranavirus. We present here the preliminary data on health metrics, disease surveillance, movement, and survival.