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Don Lewis, Massachusetts Audubon Society,
Fox Island Wildlife Management Area

Searching for Lethal Debris — 25 October 2000

With water temperatures in Wellfleet’s creeks hovering around 50 Fahrenheit, time has come to sweep marsh channels for potentially lethal debris.  Last fall more than a 100 diamondback terrapins died in these salt marshes and this year we're not going to allow history to repeat.  See Death in the Marsh, documenting the dramatic die-off of terrapins in the Wellfleet population.  (Close browser window to return to this page.)

A few days of bright sunshine have raised the water temperature to 12 C (53.6 F).  The 10 knot northerly breeze has cleared visibility in the creeks, mucked up by several days of a westerly blow.  The channels around Indian Neck and Fox Island, which last year were blocked by “ghost” netting and other debris, seem remarkably clear and open.

A single pile of debris remains off Wise Hill.  Iron framing, netting and oyster boxes have been mangled together by the tides and while they don't block any channels now, they still pose a potential hazard when underwater at high tide and especially should they be swept from the marsh by a storm surge.  We’ll pull this material ASAP.

But the good news is that Wellfleet’s salt marsh habitat seems clear and healthy this fall.  Channel patrols will continue by kayak until ice forms and by foot throughout the winter.