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

The Poughkeepsie Invasion — 31 May 2002

The biology club from Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, New York descended on Wellfleet Bay this morning.  After experiencing a series of less than perfect events during their trip to Cape Cod, including a Woods Hole aquarium closed for security reasons and a whale cruise that witnessed a single “drive by” sighting, the pressure was on our beloved diamondback terrapins to get things back on track.  Not to fear, the turtles were here.

After a brief orientation at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary with an introduction to terrapins through #1196 (a 9-year-old female approaching her first nesting year in 2002) and #1297 (a 5-year-old male), we vanned over to Lieutenant Island to play in the muddy low tide of Blackfish Creek.  Time to grab nets, fold up jeans, and pray that nothing more dangerous than an angry terrapin lies beneath the murky waves.  Well, they paid for adventure and adventure is what they were going to get.

So, off we slogged into the creeks; pails, nets, cameras, and unbridled — okay, perhaps slightly bridled — enthusiasm.  Nevertheless, this gang of adventurers discovered four turtles attempting to run the rapids: two 6-year-old pre-pubescent females, one 9-year-old male, and a mature 11-year-old female.  And as illustrated by the end-of-the-day class photo with turtles included, the students and faculty from Duchess Community College scored a triumph in the Land of Ooze.

For the afternoon, a small contingent from Wheaton College joined me in kayaks to explore Chipman’s Cove.  Winds blasted again out of the southwest, gusting to over 20 knots.  Still, even in these most inhospitable conditions, we netted 25 turtles.  Five were previously marked, while 20 were new captures.  Three were males and 22 were female.  Of the females, seven were pre-pubescent, one was on the cusp of nesting in 2002 for the first time, and the remainder were fully mature.

Year-to-date results for all of Wellfleet after the first month of the 2002 research season total 186 captures, 21 of which were repeats, yielding 165 individual turtles seen.  Thirty-five were male and 130 were female.  Forty-six had been previously marked, while 119 were captured for the first time in 2002.