Western Pond Turtles (Actinemys marmorata) are endemic to western North America and are found in a diversity of aquatic habitats. To date, few studies have examined the ecology of populations in ephemeral or intermittent ponds. Here, we studied the terrestrial habitat requirements of Western Pond Turtles in an intermittent pond that dries in years with below-average rainfall. We tracked terrestrial movements of Western Pond Turtles in an ephemeral pond at the San Joaquin Experimental Range in Madera County, California, USA, in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada. We used radiotelemetry in 2012–13 to record their terrestrial locations and timing of departure from, and return to, the pond. Also, we examined the terrestrial microhabitat turtles selected for aestivation and overwintering. Turtles began leaving the pond as it dried in the late spring and early summer, spending an average of 235 d out of water, and their return to the pond was correlated with increasing rainfall during late winter. The majority of terrestrial locations were concealed completely in litter or duff and 95% of terrestrial locations during the study occurred within 187 m of the pond edge. Turtles in our study generally exhibited terrestrial habitat use similar to that of populations in intermittent lotic systems such as the many snow-melt and rain-fed rivers in northern California. Our results reinforce the importance of terrestrial habitat in the life history of Western Pond Turtles and the context-dependence of their habitat needs.
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