Saturday, January 9, 2010

Terrapins vs Toyotas

The Diamondback Terrapin gets its name from the pyramid-shaped bumps on its upper shell, which look like diamonds studding its body. Unfortunately for the terrapin, its shell is not as hard as a diamond.

Terrapins leave their coastal wetlands home for only one reason - to lay their eggs. They slowly scratch their way to higher, drier ground, which can sometimes be far from the water. On their way, they often cross paths with another animal going the other direction, toward the beach for sun and fun.

Luckily for terrapins in New Jersey, they have friends at The Wetlands Institute. Students and volunteers in the institute's programs have constructed fences along coastal roads, to help keep the terrapins off the pavement. When one does get on the road but doesn't make it across, they remove any viable eggs from the body and incubate them for later release. And when terrapins lay their eggs on the institute's property, they cover the nest with a mesh enclosure to keep predators away from the eggs and newly hatched babies.

My son's Boy Scout troop visited The Wetlands Institute on a day when they were removing terrapins from two predator enclosures. The photo below shows an enclosure with its top removed, and a student getting ready to dig out the hatchlings.

And here they are, fresh from their sandy nests. They will spend the rest of the day in their Rubbermaid residence, safe inside the building. They will be released into the bay at night while the hungry seagulls are sleeping.

If you are ever near Stone Harbor, New Jersey, I'm sure you would enjoy a visit to The Wetlands Institute. You can visit their terrapin conservation website here to learn more about these animals. Terrapins are the only species of turtle adapted to live in the brackish water of coastal wetlands, as opposed to sea turtles, freshwater turtles, and tortoises (which live on land). You can even "Adopt-A-Terrapin"!

If you aren't lucky enough to be at The Wetlands Institute when they are rescuing terrapins, you can still have a ball sloshing around in the mud on their nature "trail".

Top photo courtesy of Wikimedia


  1. Pretty little dudes! Glad they are getting some help. Sorry they need it.

  2. I wasn't aware of this..what a great idea and I love that your son's BoyScout Troop was involved. We need kids who are interested in I think they may be in the minority..Michelle..My Hoh-snapping turtles