Protecting Tybee’s Precious Wildlife: Safeguarding Diamondback Terrapins During Nesting Season
Tybee is home to a wide array of wildlife. All sorts of birds, reptiles, mammals and marine life inhabit Tybee’s shores and surrounding waters, each contributing to the biodiversity that the island is known for. Among these various fauna is the diamondback terrapin turtle, a protected species that inhabits coastal environments.
Diamondback terrapins have distinctive shells that vary in color with bold concentric diamond-shaped rings, for which they are named. A smaller cousin of the sea turtle, these terrapins can be found along coastlines from North Carolina to Georgia, living in brackish marshes, estuaries and coves.
We’re currently in the heart of their nesting season, which lasts from April through July, and it’s important to keep an eye out for these coastal creatures. Diamondback terrapins move to higher ground in search of places to lay their eggs, and this trek often leads them to Tybee’s roads. Unfortunately, about 200 terrapins lose their lives each nesting season, due to being run over by cars. That’s a lot of deaths in a short window of time. So, it’s very important to drive slow on the island to spare the lives of the turtles as they nest.
Diamondback terrapins face several threats including habitat loss and entrapment in crab pots in addition to road strikes. To save this protected reptile, drivers should maintain a watchful eye while navigating the island this time of year.
If you happen to spot a terrapin on the road, you can help it cross if the road conditions are safe. In that case, move the turtle in the direction that it was already going. If you put it back from where it came, there’s a good chance the turtle will try to cross again. If you see that the turtle is in distress, call the authorities for assistance.
We should do all we can to protect these special animals this nesting season. Remember to drive slow and be on the lookout for terrapins this time of year. Reducing your speed can save lives and ensure that these turtles inhabit Tybee for years to come.
Interested in learning more about Tybee’s divers ecology? Make sure to plan a visit to the Tybee Island Marine Science Center.