Diamondback Terrapins are Back at the Beaches – and Need Your Help!

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Diamondback terrapins live in saltwater marshes throughout North Florida. Photo credit: Jenny Alvarado.

As the weather warms, diamondback terrapins are making their return to the beaches of North Florida, and our team is ready for them!

 As North Florida Land Trust’s Resource Specialist, I have begun monitoring for diamondback terrapins on and around Big Talbot Island. Every year between April and October, these unique turtles (the only brackish water turtle in North America) venture onto the beaches to lay their nests. For the past several years, the Land Trust has collaborated with Talbot Islands State Parks to carefully track the diamondback terrapin population in the area. These terrapins are a crucial species for the saltwater marsh ecosystem, but face many serious threats to survival.

 Diamondback terrapins are common by-catch in crab traps, as they can easily swim into traps in search of food but are unable to escape, and ultimately drown. Throughout their range from Massachusetts to Texas, terrapins are also a food source for raccoons and other predators, and unfortunately frequent road kill in areas with busy roads.  Perhaps the most serious threat to their long-term survival, however, is habitat loss. Saltwater marshes and beaches, critical for diamondback terrapin nesting and productivity, are rapidly lost to coastal development and sea level rise associated with climate change. Thanks to a generous gift by Diane Joy Milam Dennis, the majority of Big Talbot Island is now permanently preserved. This protection will allow diamondback terrapins to continue to use these beaches for years to come, without risk of human development.

 This year, NFLT is expanding our diamondback terrapin monitoring program, and we need your help! We are recruiting dedicated volunteers to join Team Terrapin and participate in monitoring our beaches on and near Big Talbot Island. For more information, contact me at edunn@northfloridalandtrust.org.

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