Volunteers Eyed For Terrapin Count

OCEAN CITY — The Maryland Coastal Bays Program, partnering with the Terrapin Work Group, a group composed of terrapin researchers and managers, is looking for volunteers who would like to help with the third annual terrapin head count survey held from May 29 to June 1. The count is being extended this year to give more folks a chance to get involved.

The Diamondback Terrapin may be Maryland’s state reptile and the mascot for the University of Maryland, but its current population status in the coastal bays, as well as in the state of Maryland, is poorly understood. The annual terrapin head count survey is held in the Chesapeake Bay and the Coastal Bays to better understand its status in the state. Counting terrapin heads in the water as they congregate for breeding or other purposes is considered to be an effective way of monitoring population numbers. The turtles do not need to be captured, just observed and counted. The thought is to continue these observations over a period of time and departures from average numbers could point to areas of concern.

The coastal bays count will consist of surveys in all five bays including tidal creeks and marsh guts. Surveys can be conducted by crews in either motorized boats or canoes and kayaks.

Organizers are looking for boat owners who can provide the transport, experienced water people who are able to identify turtles in the water (the terrapin is typically the turtle occupying brackish/salt water, but other turtles, such as snapping turtles, may venture into those waters as well) and a person who can accurately fill out survey forms in the field, including GPS coordinates.

MCBP will provide a brief training through its website and paperwork to those interested in participating.

Locations of surveys will depend on the number of crews that are available. If you have an interest in participating in the survey, contact the Maryland Coastal Bays Program’s Sandi Smith at sandis@mdcoastalbays.org or 410-641-2297 ext. 107.

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