Join Our Terrapin Team
For more than 15 years, Wellfleet Bay has worked to increase populations of Diamondback Terrapins on the Outer Cape, a salt marsh turtle on the state’s endangered species list. Terrapins have declined due to loss of nesting habitat, drowning in crab traps, and being killed by cars as they try to cross roads during nesting season.
Our goal is to help terrapins be as productive as possible by protecting their nests and their hatchlings. Our work, which includes monitoring protected nests and hatchlings, greatly depends on a trained corps of volunteers. Each season the number of hatchlings released along our local salt marshes has grown, with more than 5,000 young turtles released last summer!
Nests are monitored at various Outer Cape locations, including the sanctuary, Lieutenant Island, north Wellfleet, Eastham, and Orleans.
Our volunteers commit to once-a-week shifts during the terrapin nesting period, the hatching period or both. During June and July, teams monitor sites twice daily for new nests. When a nest is located, it’s protected with a metal cage-like structure known as a predator excluder, which deters digging animals, like foxes and coyotes.
In August and September, teams check nest sites at least twice a day for hatchlings or signs of hatching.
A volunteer shift can last from one to four hours and includes walking or wading in sandy, uneven terrain for up to several miles, depending upon location. New volunteers receive training and work with experienced shift leaders. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old.
Having an Impact
Terrapin program coordinator Jess Ciarcia says the season not only gives volunteers a chance to experience scientific field work, but also provides the chance to help a threatened native turtle.
“Some of our volunteers have been working with terrapins for many years," she notes. "I think one reason for that is the tremendous satisfaction of knowing you’ve made a difference.”
Want to join us? Please email our Wellfleet Bay volunteer coordinator.