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

The Cape Codder, Friday, August 23, 2002

Reprinted with permission from Doreen Leggett.

Hot weather, drought
impacting baby terrapins

By Doreen Leggett

The extended drought is a challenge for the Cape’s turtles.  The good news, however, is that the mosquito population is way down.

The heat and hot weather are keeping people on the beach, and are also sending baby northern diamondback terrapins to the marshes a little early.  Turtle protectors are all too aware what will happen when they cross paths.

“It’s going to be tough for the little critters trying to zigzag between SUVs en route to the safety of the marsh,” said Don Lewis, a volunteer who keeps tabs on the terrapins.  “We . . . want to alert folks . . . to be on the lookout for the proverbial rolling stone or, perhaps more accurately, the crawling pebble.”

At one-inch long and ¼-ounce weight, they’re not going to survive many encounters with the automobiles that are often taking the some route.

Usually, the bulk of the terrapins, which are listed as threatened on the state’s endangered species list, hatch after Labor Day.  This year the earliest hatchlings emerged a week ago, which is eight days earlier than 2001 and 19 days earlier than 2000.

Because there are still so many vehicles and cars on Lieutenant Island and other neighborhoods where adult turtles laid their nests, Lewis and others at the Audubon Society’s Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay are asking that people please be aware.

One of the greatest threats to this year-rounder is being squashed by unwary drivers.

Terrapins likely lay their eggs in neighborhoods because predators are fewer and far between on the roads than in the dunes, where the terrapins traditionally nest.  Lewis said that on the dunes, the predation rate can be more than 90 percent; in the neighborhoods it’s 10 percent.

For more information or if you spot a turtle, call 508-349-0954, which is available all hours.

See also The Cape Cod Times, August 23, 2002:

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