During late summer and fall 2014, we documented western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata) mortality, as indicated by the presence of turtle shells, along a 3.7-km reach of Coyote Creek in the Diablo Range of central California. In total, we observed 39 western pond turtle shells scattered irregularly along our study reach. Shells were found in dry reaches adjacent to or close to pools containing live turtles, as well as in or adjacent to dry pools in isolated dry reaches. Ninety percent of shells observed contained no carcass, and several shells showed evidence of predation. Though the cause of mortality is unclear, our observations confirm that western pond turtles may experience high mortality during droughts, which could result in significant population decline. The presence of live turtles in refugial pools emphasizes the importance of protecting and managing permanent pools in the face of intensified drought conditions.
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Vol. 61 • No. 1