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

A Little Help from Friends — 15 June 2001

Help comes from many sources as nesting season continues in the Land of Ooze.  Nest protectors, newly constructed and just erected yesterday, proved their worth overnight.  As I parked the jeep on south Lieutenant Island this morning, I noticed all the garbage cans, placed outside last night for early pickup, had been overturned by raccoons — not a good sign for the freshly laid nests on Turtle Point.  I spotted tracks leading to the first nest at the tip of the point and got concerned.  No need.  The critter had pawed at the protector and scratched along its side, but the device did the job.

We had an orientation program today on Turtles of the Salt Marsh for the public and for new Paludal Posse volunteers.  After the obligatory “death by viewgraph” lecture by yours truly, we slipped into the field for some fun, discovering nesters from Eastham to Wellfleet.

For this evening’s high tide, I solicited help from Keeper, a big, boisterous rescued puppy belonging to a local shellfisherman working on the island.  He discovered two turtles that I would never have found.  They were hidden deep in high grass and as I walked passed them, Keeper yapped and pointed to get my attention.  Both were recaptures, one we’ve been following since 1993 and the other seen for the first time last season.

One of those turtles, #338, laid a nest at the tip of Turtle Point in a fairly secluded and exposed area.  I easily found the nest chamber, secured it as best I could, marked and covered it for the night, and hopefully overlaid enough covering scent to ward off predators until a nest protector can be secured in the morning.


The final discovery of the day came after sunset when I (literally) stumbled across Turtle 360 on the steep, sandy west slope of Turtle Point.  Checking for tracks and nest signs, I missed her hunkering over her nest near the top of the dune.  She is an ancient terrapin, one of the largest in Wellfleet, at 20.3 centimeters and nearly 1500 grams — after dropping her eggs.