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

New Friends and Old — 5 July 2001

Fourth of July brought a visit by members of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society who found their way to the Land of Ooze from parts west and urban.  They had an opportunity to inspect our paludal habitat and to meet some of Wellfleet’s finest: a mature female (#717) and a five-year-old, pre-pubescent female (#1160).

They even got the chance to release Terrapin #717 at the site of her field-marked and viable Nest #122.


This morning Kristen Hart from the North Carolina terrapin program stopped by to compare site locations and to gather samples for her on-going DNA project.  She and a friend joined me in rain-drenched Blackfish Creek where we still managed to dip net a mature male (#694) and a mature female (#697).


The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary offered a Turtles of the Salt Marsh public program this afternoon.  After a brief introduction, the class hit the field, searching marshlands and uplands for diamondback terrapins.  Unfortunately, with the nesting season running a week to ten days ahead of schedule in 2001, much of the nesting surge is behind us.  We scoured Try Island, Goose Pond Trail and other sites along Fresh Brook and Hatches Creek without success.

But when we trucked over to Lieutenant Island to release turtles from this morning’s roundup, we were waved down by a member of the Paludal Posse, “We’ve got a terrapin nesting in the middle of E Street!”  Turtle #363 is a 15-year-old female who has been under observation since June 1996.  On 12 May (Of Things Big and Small), she was spotted for the first time this year, swimming through Blackfish Creek.  On 14 June, she was seen on a nesting run for her first clutch of the year.  Somehow, between then and today, #363 has incurred a traumatic injury — probably caused by an encounter with a vehicle sometime around mid-June during the first nesting run, but after she had been seen by our observers.  Her carapace has been cracked and her plastron is quite scarred.  Still, she seems to have recovered from this latest run-in with man.

June 14 images on the left; 5 July pictures on the right.



Even today, with her successful second nesting, not everything seems to have gone according to plan.  The spot pointed out by the observer did, indeed, contain a covered and viable nest (#129), which we field marked and protected.  Yet, when we checked 363 for gravidity, we detected two probable eggs still inside.  Perhaps she was disturbed and hurriedly covered the nest holding the vast majority of her second clutch, but before she could completely deposit her full load.

Finally, for lack of space and time, I will omit my encounter with the snapper — except to say that someone had to save the tourists from themselves when they tried to do the one thing that everyone seems, rightly or wrongly, to “know” about turtles.  That is, when found in the road, move it to the side toward which it was pointed.  Folks are forever doing the same with terrapins, only to discover them back in the road to complete the nest they had started and from which they had been so rudely interrupted.  Well, snappers don’t take well to prodding or to tourists.  And this young lady had had her fill of both.  The next time you see me, please don’t ask if I had a failed attempt at suicide because of the slashes where her powerful claws got me across the wrist.  But, on the other hand, maybe that is what you call it — because it sure isn’t sane to tangle with a ticked-off snapper.  Next time I’ll let her eat the tourists.  Moral of the story: Don’t play hide and seek with a snapping turtle — she (or he) may find you.