Terrapin Nesting Season Means More Visible Turtles on Land

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From late May to early July, it's nesting season for adult female Diamondback Terrapins as they crawl out from their homes in brackish water along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to lay eggs in gardens, sand, or dirt. 

“They dig a hole that is about 4-6 inches under the ground and to deposit about 10 eggs so they need to make sure that’s an area that is not going to flood and be under water," said Lisa Ferguson, the director of research and conservation at Wetlands Institute.

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While people are looking forward to the hot weather of summertime, adult female terrapins are looking for high dry ground that is safe for nesting.

“So they have fewer and fewer places to access to nest," said Ferguson. "So we often see them on roads more often and that’s when the biggest problem for the nesting season for the Diamondback Terrapin is the fact that they have to cross roads in order to get to high ground."

There are more threats to the small reptiles besides just cars. One danger hazard, a crab trap, is believed to have led to nearly 80 dead turtles washing up on the beach in Sea Isle this past Memorial Day weekend. 

“Getting trapped and drowning in fisheries gear is a big problem for them," said Ferguson. "They have to breathe air. They have to come up to breathe. So if they are trapped and submerged under water for an extended period of time and it doesn’t have to be that long, it can be within a day or two, they can drown.”

The Wetlands Institute works to recover eggs of any mother that may have been killed during nesting to incubate them and raise them in captivity for one year before releasing them back into the wild.

The Institute hopes that everyone will be cautious when driving in high terrapin crossing areas to keep these mothers and baby terrapins safe during nesting season.

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