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The processing of turtles is harder than it sounds! Here is an idea of a typical turtle find from beginning to end. As you know we have these spectacular dogs that do all the hard work for us. As they find them, tape is first placed around the shell and each turtle is given a temporary ID, we use the generic ABCs.
We have runner “books” that are then filled out with the microhabitat, such as under leaves, in log jam, etc, the dog that caught it, time it was caught, temporary ID, and GPS coordinates.
For each turtle we take length, width, and height measurements.
We also count the annuli, the rings on the scutes of the turtle to tell their age much like the rings of a tree, and determine whether they are smooth, somewhat smooth, or well defined. Generally as the turtle gets older the annuli will become more smooth. After 20 years of age it is really hard to determine the age of the turtle because the shell is almost completely smooth.
We also record the weight and hopefully if we see the turtle we can get a look at the eye color. As you’ve read before, eye color can be a determinant of sex. But not that often.
After the turtle is done being processed, I take blood, get an oral swab, and hopefully do a physical exam.
Once all the turtles have been processed, they are placed back at their GPS location where they were found.
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