Master Naturalists delve into the wildlife of Long Island developing a keen observation skills for knowing and anticipating what wildlife can be found where. When in training, they're given an overview of the variety of species found on Long Island, including their life cycles, habitats, and natural history. They will ponder questions related to current events, in considering how coyote, turkey, bobwhite quail and other species are returning, including mechanisms for their reintroductions. They will also learn to be confident in applying and broadening their understanding of such conservation biology terms as endangered species, biodiversity, population dynamics, etc.
Words To Know & Understand
Sometimes, it's not obvious, or not easily identifiable, as to what species would play any of the following roles:
Some jargon you may hear all the time:
- Indicator Species - a species used to measure environmental health, and should specify why and what is measured.
- Keystone Species - a species that's critical for survival of its habitat, not only for itself but for many other species as well
- Umbrella Species - protecting this one species helps protect many other species found in that habitat.
Some jargon you may hear all the time:
- Macroinvertabrates - you can see with naked eye that have no backbone
Birding & Mammals
- Birding - How To Identify Birds Using A Field Guide
- Coyotes. Department of Environmental Conservation
- Deer Protection and Management Advisory Committee and its Deer Protection Plan (Town of Southampton)
- Long Island Deer Management - help better manage the Whitetail Deer population on Long Island
- Fall Turkey Count by County. Department of Environmental Conservation
- Hunting on Long Island. Department of Environmental Conservation
- Mammal Checklist
Amphibians, Insects, Snakes, Macroinvertabrates, Eels
Box Turtles are upland reptiles. They aren't found in water, but my take a dip occasionally. When Master Naturalists discover a box turtle, they may photograph it noting its location, sketch it, and begin to ask a series of conservation biology questions:
How are Box Turtles distributed on Long Island? Are they evenly dispersed? If not evenly dispersed, then are there clusters or areas where they have no presence? What habitats have they been found in? Are observations biased by where people are mostly like spending time outdoors, as this could potentially bias our data collection method. How has box turtle observations, varied with time, and season? Do box turtle shell patterns vary geographically? Can shell patterns distinguish individuals?
These are some of the questions (on left) we hope to answer in the iNaturalist Long Island Box Turtle Study project. You are welcome to participate in this volunteer, citizen science project that benefits our understanding of the Wildlife of Long Island.
FUN FACTS by Pat Sutton, Native Plant Wildlife Garden (with minor edits)
I attended a terrific Box Turtle lecture earlier this year at the Wetlands Institute near Stone Harbor. The researcher, Brian Williamson, shared some fun facts that helped me understand the thriving population that is benefiting from our wildlife habitat:
- omnivores eating mainly invertebrates, carrion, fruit, fungi, and vegetable matter; responsible for seed dispersal of May Apple
- sexually dimorphic. Males have red eyes and females have brown or yellow eyes.
- mate throughout spring through fall
- lay 3 to 9 eggs in loose soil with hatch out in 50 to 100 days, and the young are on their own with no parental care
- It takes 7 to 9 years for the young to mature
- They are not territorial
- establish home ranges which vary in size (some are huge, others are very small); home ranges can overlap
- If moved they will try to find their way back to their home range so NEVER relocate a Box Turtle. It may get run over as it tries to find its way home. Do, however, help them across a road and be cautious of high speed traffic for your own safety and the turtle’s. Julie Zickefoose, of the Rain Crows, wrote a great song about just that, “Little Soldiers” – “pick him up, carry him across – Little Soldier knows where he’s going.”
- When it is hot, they hunker down
- In late fall they hibernate by burrowing up to two feet down (though often shallower) in soil and leaves. We don’t feel compelled to rake leaves and send them away so our wildlife habitat, including our enormous brush pile, must be very inviting.
- They need to survive freezing temperatures, hence why they burrow underground for winter
- They can survive freezing solid for no longer than 3 days, which explains the lifeless shell and bones you sometimes find in spring
Where can I find box turtles in the wild?
Where can I find box turtles in the wild on Long Island? This quick reference chart provides an understanding of where box turtles can be found and what behavior is most like to be observed.
Because this information is based on habitat use in Massachusetts, the times of year my not be a match for Long Island. Keep a journal, to record any differences you may observe, then share with us to make one for Long Island.
Additional Resources for Amphibians, Insects, Snakes, Macroinvertabrates, Eels
- Amphibians and Reptiles of Long Island, Staten Island and Manhattan
- Insect Identification
- Identification Guide To Freshwater Macroinvertabrates (you can see with naked eye that have no backbone)
- USFWS - American Eel Report