Diamondback Terrapins Are Nesting!

Diamondback Terrapins Are Nesting!

Posted May 30, 2024            

Who’s nesting? Where? When?  Why did the terrapin cross the road? Do they need any help? Let me explain…

Diamondback terrapins are one of the unique residents of our area and one of my personal favorites. They are the only turtle species in Massachusetts to live in brackish water, and they have very distinct markings. A medium-sized turtle, adults have grayish to black skin with greenish specks, light-colored upper and lower jaws, concentric ring patterns on their ridged shells, and large paddle-shaped hind feet. Babies look exactly like adults—easy to identify and not to be confused with fresh-water turtles like cooters and sliders.

Diamondback terrapins inhabit marshes which border brackish tidal waters, mud flats, shallow bays, coves, and tidal estuaries.  Salt marshes are critical wintering, foraging, and nursery areas. They nest in sandy, dry, open-canopy upland areas, above the high water line, and females may travel up to a quarter of a mile upland to lay eggs. Nesting season runs from late May through mid-July. A single female may lay 1-3 nests per year, and most return to the same nesting location year after year.

These turtles face a lot of threats, from loss of habitat areas to climate change and predators. But we can try to help! Try to tread carefully in the areas they like to use for nesting. Keep pets away from the terrapins. Keep four-wheeled vehicles away from nesting areas. Watch for nesting females, but leave them alone. If interrupted, a female may abandon the nest altogether. Don’t try to move a nesting female to a “better” spot. She chose this one and will not relocate. Diamondback terrapins, as well as other turtles, may feel a need to cross a road to reach a nesting site. Be vigilant and watch for crossing turtles! Always move a turtle across the road in the direction it’s going; it is determined to go that way.

The New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance (NECWA) monitors and helps to conserve diamondback terrapins in our area. If you see a diamondback and/or its nest you can notify them by going to their website, NECWA.org and filling out a sighting report, or call them at 508-566-0009. Let’s hope these unique creatures have a safe nesting season. Thank you for watching out for them!

Written by Dee Jepson, WLT Advisor

Terrapin in the marsh

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