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Estimating freshwater turtle mortality rates and population declines following hook ingestion

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Freshwater turtle populations are susceptible to declines following small increases in the mortality of adults, making it essential to identify and understand potential threats. Freshwater turtles ingest fish hooks associated with recreational angling, and this is likely a problem because hook ingestion is a source of additive mortality for sea turtles. We used a Bayesian‐modeling framework, observed rates of hook ingestion by freshwater turtles, and mortality of sea turtles from hook ingestion to examine the probability that a freshwater turtle in a given population ingests a hook and subsequently dies from it. We used the results of these analyses and previously published life‐history data to simulate the effects of hook ingestion on population growth for 3 species of freshwater turtle. In our simulation, the probability that an individual turtle ingests a hook and dies as a result was 1.2–11%. Our simulation results suggest that this rate of mortality from hook ingestion is sufficient to cause population declines. We believe we have identified fish‐hook ingestion as a serious yet generally overlooked threat to the viability of freshwater turtle populations.
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Keywords: Bayesian; Bayesiano; Chelydra; Macrochelys; Trachemys; bycatch; captura accesoria; reptil; reptile

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2017

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