First Active Cape Cod Terrapins of 2012

First Cape Cod Terrapin of 2012: Handsome Male #7082

Under layers of muddy ooze ‘neath the bottom of Wellfleet Bay, Northern Diamondback Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin terrapin) snoozed for six and a half months.  Now, sunny days and warming temperatures have coaxed them to the surface to renew the cycle of life in the waters of Outer Cape Cod.  This handsome dude, the first Cape capture of the season, still sports dark muddy stains on his skin.

Sue Wieber Nourse with First Cape Terrapin Capture

The Turtle Journal Team entered Fresh Brook Run, south of Lieutenant Island in Wellfleet Bay, around 1 pm on Patriots Day (April 16th) to search for active turtles cavorting in the tidal shallows of the retreating tide.  A strong southwest wind roiled the Run with white caps, but a few heads could be spotted as turtles came to the surface to snatch a breadth of air.  Sue Wieber Nourse snagged the first capture of the season, male #7082, as he scurried along the murky bottom.

Second Male Diamondback Terrapin

A second and third mature male terrapin, and two adult females were netted by the Turtle Journal Team as they crisscrossed the Fresh Brook Run.  Three of the turtles were first time captures; two (one male and one female) had been previously captured and marked.  Sue Wieber Nourse had netted Male #7082 in June 2010.  Don Lewis had captured Female #739 on 2 July 1999, nearly 13 years ago. 

Don Lewis Tells Lieutenant Island Visitors about Terrapins

The three most important factors in conservation are (1) education, (2) education, and (3) education. With a beautiful Patriot’s Day, residents and tourists flocked to Cape beaches. A perfect opportunity for Turtle Journal to engage the public and to enlist a new wave of citizen scientists.  Above, Don points out the principal characteristics of a male diamondback terrapin, using #7082 as an example, to local Wellfleet residents.  For instance, mature males are nearly half the linear length and a quarter of the mass of an adult female.

Mature Female Terrapin with Affixed Oyster Spats

This adult female terrapin, a first time capture, had clearly already experienced humans in a less positive engagement.  Her right side showed signs typical of a close encounter with a vehicle while she was on a nesting run.  A chunk of her marginal scutes were broken off.  She also became home for two oyster spats looking for a solid permanent location to begin life.

Sue Wieber Nourse Releases Terrapins into Town Creek

With processing complete, Sue released the five adult terrapins into Town Creek at the southwest edge of Lieutenant Island, so they could rejoin their comrades in Fresh Brook Run.  And, yes, it is springtime.  So, I suspect you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the two females had trailing male companions as they paddled their way back into Wellfleet Bay.

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