A Terrapin Tale

It seems that surest way to prevent there from being any terrapins on the causeway when I drive in to the mainland is to remember my camera. If I put my camera in my purse before I leave, there will not be any terrapins in the road. Which is a good thing, really, but still.

Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) are brackish water turtles that live in the salt marshes of the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. At this time of the year, just like the sea turtles coming out of the ocean, mother terrapins emerge to lay their eggs in hammocks, tree-covered islands of high ground dotting the marsh. Unfortunately for them, the highest high ground to be found anywhere in the marsh behind Jekyll Island is the causeway connecting us to the mainland, so their instinct to crawl to the highest elevation they can find leads them out into dangerous traffic. (My boss recounts a story of a terrapin actually found a good part of the way to the top of the Sidney Lanier Bridge that spans the Brunswick River near the end of the causeway. It’s amusing to imagine what might have been going through that turtle’s mind: “Wow, I’m going to have the highest nest ever!”)

Whenever I do happen to spot a terrapin in the road, if it’s possible to pull over safely I do and move it off the pavement to the edge of the bushes and trees lining the causeway’s margins. I’m not the only one, either; in addition to the official “terrapin patrol” operated out of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which also rehabilitates any injured ones they find, I’ve seen other good Samaritans pulling over and braving traffic to rescue the little ladies. Luckily the road on causeway is only two lanes wide, so you can do this without really taking your life in your hands.

Like I said, I haven’t been able to get any photos of the females, but to give you an idea of what cuties they are here’s a video clip I originally posted in January of our three captive males. They really have a lot of personality!

2 thoughts on “A Terrapin Tale”

  1. I’m always nervous driving across the causeway when there’s a lot of wildlife buzzing around. I once hit (and killed) a falcon of some sort. Felt terrible, but when my mom called the DNR, they weren’t interested in recovering it. Bleah.

    At least they have lots of “watch for turtles” signs up on the causeway! Did someone eventually rescue the one on the bridge?

    1. The one on the bridge was retrieved alive and well, as far as I know. Another popular story is about the time a state trooper saw someone obviously hit one on purpose on the causeway – the trooper immediately pulled over the offending car and invented a reason to write the person a ticket. Speed traps or no, the Jekyll Island troopers (who are our only cops, this being a state park) rock.

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