Rescued Terrapin Thrives in New Habitat

“Bumpy” Stretch Behind Her

“Bumpy” — Rescued Terrapin #325

Turtle Journal, our friends, our colleagues and you have been privileged to rescue thousands of turtles through the years in our shared mission to save the world one turtle at a time.  We give these troubled critters a nudge towards survival, we hope for the best, and we never see them again.  On special occasions, and particularly within our three decade long longitudinal study of terrapins, we get the chance to see the rescued specimen again, but usually long afterwards.  Today, though, we saw a terrapin that was rescued and released into the wild only three weeks ago; and she told us … with her data, of course … how well she has adjusted to her new life.

Mass Audubon Allen’s Pond Staff with “Bumpy”

Someone had dumped female terrapin #325 (Bumpy) in a fresh water pond at Buttonwood Park in New Bedford.  Where that someone had found her originally is unknown.  From her skin markings, she appears to be a Buzzards Bay terrapin.  But whether she had been scooped from an estuary or a beach in Westport or Dartmouth or Fairhaven or Mattapoisett or Marion or Wareham or elsewhere, we shall never know.  What we do know is that staff from Mass Audubon’s Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary spotted her at the New Bedford pond on June 14th, realized she did not belong and called Turtle Journal for identification of her species and a course of action to rescue her.

Terrapin Infested with Fresh Water Leeches

The first thing we did was to remove two large fresh water leeches that had embedded themselves into her right forelimb.

Terrapin #325 with Bumps and Distortions (Rear View)

Yes, Terrapin #325 has earned her nickname “Bumpy.”  She has large and asymmetrical bumps along her vertebrals.  She also has nine rather than the normal five vertebral scutes.  Clearly, this turtle has multiple stories to tell, some about her life history and others about her genetics.

Terrapin #325 with Bumps and Distortions (Front View)

Yet, with leeches removed and given a few days to cleanse algae and slime she had accumulated in the fresh water, Terrapin #325 was ready to return to the wild; to real diamondback terrapin habitat, that is.  Although we had no way to ascertain her home estuary, our research tells us that some Buzzards Bay terrapins swim extensively from estuary to estuary within the bay.   So, the most important factor for us was to find a safe and convenient, terrapin-friendly estuary from whence Bumpy could make her own life choices.

Bumpy (Terrapin #325) Released in Protected Cove

We released Terrapin #325 on June 17th.  For her return to nature, we chose a protected, terrapin rich cove mid-way through Buzzards Bay. From there, she could easily chart her own course for the future.  Little did we realize that we would encounter her again so soon  … just three weeks later.  And little did we appreciate how quickly she would re-adapt to her natural habitat.

Rescued Terrapin #325 Thriving in New Habitat

Sunday morning Turtle Journal received a call from Ed and Lisa at a terrapin nesting beach in the next estuary to the cove where Bumpy had been released.  They had spotted a turtle and held it for us.  Sure enough, it was Terrapin #325.  Bumpy either swam a mile around the point or crawled a quarter mile across the peninsula to reach this nesting site. 

Her numbers tell the story.  In a mere three weeks, Bumpy had grown 0.1 centimeter; she had gained 50 grams (nearly 5% of her body mass).  And now she was quite pregnant, heavy with eggs and looking for a viable spot to deposit them.  Not too shabby for three weeks of freedom!

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