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!

My Friends the Terrapins

I’m baaaack, and I come bearing a new video clip.  Somehow even though we didn’t have students here the second half of this week (darn you, Atlanta blizzard!), I’ve still felt really busy lately, and when you add that to the cold weather that’s made me not want to budge from my cozy bed, nature blogging ground to halt.  But today I finally got out my camera and headed to our animal room to introduce you to some buddies of mine.

Part of my job includes animal care, specifically taking care of box turtles and diamondback terrapins.  Today when I went to give the terrapins their chopped up bits of shrimp, I wanted to take some photos of them, but because of their nonstop movement and the poor light in the lab I ended up taking a video clip instead.

Diamondback terrapins, Malaclemys terrapin, are aquatic turtles that live in the salt marshes of the east coast.  Here on Jekyll Island, the females experience high rates of mortality during the spring egg-laying season because they come crawling out of the marsh looking for high ground.  Guess where the highest ground in their habitat is?  The causeway connecting the island to the mainland.  Which is frequented by speeding cars.

Anyway, my three little friends have an incredible amount of personality.  When I walk up to their tank they come paddling over frantically, obviously associating me with food.  Then, when I actually try to feed them, they get so distracted by trying to nip my fingers that they ignore the actual shrimp and pellets.  Sometimes they flail their front feet so hard that the end up doing backflips.  It’s nuts.

Tomorrow I am off to Atlanta to visit the world’s largest aquarium.  Japanese spider crabs, manta rays, and whale sharks!  Expect photos.