Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Thomas K. Pauley

Second Advisor

Frank Gilliam

Third Advisor

Elmer Price


Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene c. carolina) are a terrestrially hibernating reptile found throughout the eastern United States. Despite their prevalence, little, outside of anecdotal observations, is known about their hibernacula selection. This study examines if they preferentially select hibernacula locations, and if so, what characteristics they select in a West Virginia population. Over the course of two years, radio-tagged turtles (n=12) were followed into hibernation in Wayne County, WV. Upon entering hibernation, ~36 data point were collected in a grid-like fashion around the hibernacula, with an additional point collected at the hibernacula. At each point, seven variables were recorded: soil temperature, soil compaction, soil moisture, soil pH, cover depth, cover moisture, and cover type. Results were analyzed using either categorical logistic regression for quantitative data or Ivlev’s (E) and Vanderploeg and Scavia’s (E*) electivity indices for categorical data. The conditional logistical regression showed a significant selection for both soil compaction (p=0.029) and cover depth (p=0.007). The two electivity indices showed a strong selection for mixed deciduous leaf litter as a cover type (E= 0.1264, E*= 0.4486). Thus, Eastern Box Turtles significantly select hibernacula sites with soft, friable soil, where they may dig easier, along with a thick cover of deciduous leaf litter, which provides increased insulation during the winter months. These results correspond with recorded anecdotal observations, thus suggesting this study may have validity throughout much of Terrapene c. carolina’s range, and provide an avenue for further study of their winter ecology, which is necessary for their continuing protection.


Turtles -- West Virginia -- Ecology.

Box turtle -- West Virginia -- Ecology.