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Diamondback Terrapins in the Chesapeake Bay – 2002 Beach Survey


Survey Description

The Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is the only brackish water turtle species in the United States and as such, is a major constituent in the estuarine food webTerrapins rely on shoreline habitats of sandy beaches proximate to marshes or tidal creeks for nesting and subsequent foraging and development of the hatchlings.  Since the mid-to-late 1900s, there have been indications that the populations of terrapin in many locations along the Mid Atlantic are declining.  Reasons for this include (1) loss of nesting habitat to waterfront development and shoreline erosion control structures, (2) increase access and vulnerability from predators (3) by-catch mortality in commercial and recreational fishing gear, and (4) increasing worldwide commercial demand for turtles.  (Maryland Diamond Terrapin Task Force – Findings and Recommendations, Final Report to the Secretary of the MD DNR, September 20, 2001). 

With increasing loss of prime nesting habits to waterfront development and sea level rise, the objective of the 2002 Beach Survey was to assess an initial distribution of terrapins in the Chesapeake Bay. During the 2002 nesting season, we walked along the shoreline looking for evidence signifying the presence of terrapins based on nesting-activities.   Results in this data set represent a single-season snapshot of terrapin activities observed during the surveys and at the locations visited one day during that season; it should not be assumed that this is representative of terrapin nest locations and numbers today.

The methods, results, and downloadable data from these surveys are below.


Proceed to Methods page>>


Last updated: website – April 2012; data collected 2002.

Female terrapinA female terrapin up close. Photo by J. Barrios.

Terrapin tracks in sand Terrapin tracks in sand. Photo: USGS.

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