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

Glorious Day — 11 May 2002

Days just don't come much better than this one — for turtling, that is.  Brilliant sunshine with not a cloud in the sky, light southerly breeze around 5 knots, and visibility as clear as bath water in Chipman’s Cove.

Launching at mid tide falling, I paddled to the southeast corner of the cove where terrapins congregate in the most isolated and protected area of Wellfleet’s downtown harbor.  The turtles lay on the bottom in singles and in male/female pairs in water depths of 2 feet and less.  They were undisturbed as the kayak drifted overhead and only stirred as the net swooped down.  Even then, the water was so clear that the mud contrail they left behind was as easy to follow as a tank track.

Within a few minutes I had netted six turtles and ferried them back to the shore for processing.  I made one more trip before the water became to shallow to paddle and captured three more.  Of these nine, six were female (one pre-pubescent and the others mature) and three were mature males.  Eight were first time captures, including a 20-something grand dame who already ranks among the largest terrapins in Wellfleet Bay.  The recapture (#774) had previously been observed on 15 and 16 July 1999 in the same location.

As we continue to ponder the size of the Wellfleet population, this last week’s action in Chipman’s Cove makes one wonder.  Since 5 May I have netted 16 turtles in Chipman’s Cove.  Only three were recaptures — two from 2001 and one from 1999.  Four were male; 12 were female.

There was one very interesting turtle from today, #1214, an 11-year-old female.  Yet despite her age, this terrapin fell far below mature size at 13.40 cm carapace length and 11.81 cm plastron.  She weighed only 404 grams.  Some of her growth lines appeared compressed and there seemed to be a concavity on her right side.  To add to her woes, Terrapin 1214 managed to acquire a shellfish spat on her right rear marginals.