Monday, July 21, 2014

Diamondback Terrapins

Diamondback Terrapins are one of our favorite river critters! Named for the diamond-shaped growth rings on their top shell, they are the only U.S. turtles that only inhabit brackish water, like estuaries, tidal creeks, and salt marshes. These guys and gals are homebodies, spending most of their life in one area, and staying close to shore, with no long-distance migrations. These guys eat fish, snails, worms, clams, crabs and marsh plants. They hibernate during the winter by burrowing into the marsh mud, and they nest on sandy beaches. The terrapin's mating season is May through July (now!), and after a 60 day gestation period, they lay their clutch of around 8-12 eggs. Hatchlings emerge from August to October, and the egg remains can be seen across the beach at PHP throughout the late summer and fall. Here's a pic of a freshly hatched little one!

As their habitat quality and quantity decreases, their numbers do as well, and they are considered to be a "federal species of concern." Pleasure House Point (PHP) provides wonderful habitat to these turtles, making its continued care and enhancement even more significant.

Lynnhaven River Now is happy to be working with the Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation Department on way to protect the diamondback terrapin's nesting habit from human and pet traffic at PHP. We have created a Google map, where anyone can leave the location, date, time and details of a terrapin sighting. If you're out walking at PHP and see a Diamondback Terrapin or even an abandoned nest or eggs, add your sighting to the map here by:
  • Signing in to your Google account
  • Clicking on the red "Edit" button on the left side of the screen
  • Selecting the balloon shaped symbol from the upper left corner
  • Placing it on the map at the approximate location of your sighting
The more information you can give in the description box, the better!

Please remember when you are out in our city, state, and federal parks (or anywhere), that although these turtles might be awfully cute, these are wild animals, not pets! Terrapins have a special ecosystem that they require to be happy and healthy, and they are happiest left in the wild where they belong.

More Terrapin resources:

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