Officials track box turtles at local state park

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BROWNS SUMMIT, N.C. — Heidi Dull does her best to follow the sound on a walk through Haw River State Park.

A radio transmitter makes a clicking sound that guides her box turtles in the wooded area.

“The antenna attaches to a receiver. And on our turtle that we have out, he has a transmitter” said Dull, assistant director of environmental education at Haw River State Park.

The transmitter attached to the turtle’s shell allows the team to track his movement through the park and gather important information.

“We can’t protect habitat unless we know which habitats are most valuable for the turtles,” said Ann Berry Somers, a senior lecturer in biology at UNCG.

She has more than 40 years experience in herpetology conservation.

She says the greatest threat to box turtles is humans.

“We know the wrong thing to do is to move them to a place that you think is better for them,” Somers said. “Turtles may spend the rest of their lives trying to get back to the place you took them from.”

The research can provide more insight into food needs and possibly a response to climate change.

The added bonus is that this connects children to the natural world.

“We’ve been very excited about it, and I think it was a year once we started the project that we realized this is something we could put into our curriculum,” said Kathryn Royall, director of environmental education at Haw River State Park.

This is just the beginning of a 100-year project.

Turtles can live that long.

The expectation is that other generations will use this foundation to better protect box turtles.

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