Changing Times for Terrapins

by Brian Williamson, Research Scientist


Northern Diamondback terrapin

After many years of being legally harvested in New Jersey, we are very happy to announce that a bill has been passed to officially remove diamondback terrapins from the game species list. The bill was originally proposed in response to recent large scale legal and illegal harvest in New Jersey. The bill, sponsored by NJ Senator Jeff Van Drew, and Assemblymen Bob Andrzejczak, and Bruce Land, was signed by Governor Christie on July 15th. Now that terrapins are considered a non-game species in the state, their harvest is illegal. Assessments of their status in New Jersey by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection will be needed to determine whether further state-level protection is required.

The Wetlands Institute is doing its part to help increase understanding and protection of statewide terrapin populations through our long-term research of the local population. In 2016, we reestablished a study of terrapins in two local creeks by replicating surveys last conducted eight years ago. This past summer we captured, documented, then released 69 terrapins in these creeks, including one not seen since 2007.

Through this work we aim to learn details about the population structure and to compare changes in the population over time. In addition, we have developed a database for our population research and are delving into 26 years of data to estimate local terrapin population characteristics, including survival rates and population size. By continuing our long-term population studies, we hope to gain a better understanding of the local terrapin population’s status that can help guide future management decisions.

2016 CCRP Interns retrieving ghost traps and savings terrapins from drowning