Diamondback Terrapin Nesting Season – Jekyll Island Foundation

Diamondback Terrapin Nesting Season

The first terrapin hatchlings of the 2024 season. These eggs were from female terrapins hit by car on the Jekyll Island Causeway.

Thanks to quick transport to the GSTC hospital, staff carefully extract eggs from injured or recently deceased terrapins and incubate them. They raise the temperature in the incubators to produce female terrapins (in turtles, biological sex (male or female) is determined by egg temperature during incubation). This is done to offset animals in the population which are lost to vehicle strikes.

A hit-by-car diamondback terrapin whose shell has been repaired by veterinary and hospital staff. For this repair, metallic plates designed for human orthopedic hand surgeries and steri-strips (white strips of “tape” which were soaked in tissue adhesive) were used among other techniques. If damage is not too extensive, these animals can heal from quite traumatic injuries and be safely returned to the wild.

An alive, uninjured female terrapin protected from the road by our mitigation fencing at the end of the causeway.

Seasonal DBT Technician Matt Goetz prepares to measure, weigh, and uniquely mark female diamondback terrapins captured as part of the GSTC's long-term terrapin research and management project.

These terrapins were encountered during peak activity around the daily high tide. Staff programs the turtle-specific flashing lights on the causeway to flash during periods of expected heavy activity to remind motorists to drive safely and be aware of their surroundings.

Information provided by Davide Zailo, GSTC Research Program Manager

Update – June 28, 2024

* Remember that swerving to miss terrapins and/or exiting a vehicle to assist a terrapin are both significant hazards, and you should prioritize your own safety on the road. Should you see a terrapin, or have a concern, please alert GSTC staff directly using the Terrapin Hotline at 912-270-8865.

  • First Terrapin Encounter: May 1, 2024
  • Most recent terrapin encounter: June 27, 2024 – 9:40 am
  • Total encounters: 509
  • Number of Unique Individual Terrapins:  ~ 347
    • Terrapins can nest multiple times per year. GSTC teams have recaptured two terrapins four times so far this season and 27 individuals have been captured at least twice this season.
  • Terrapins alive, uninjured: 417 (82%)
  • Terrapins hit by car: 92 (18%)
    • 10 undergoing rehabilitation at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center
    • 234 eggs saved from 49 hit-by-car terrapins. These eggs are currently being incubated. Five have hatched.

GIVE NOW

Diamondback terrapin nesting season is in full swing on Jekyll Island’s Causeway! During the summer they leave the marsh in search of high, dry ground to lay their eggs. Often, this can lead to them crossing the road in search of what they perceive to be better nesting sites.

Since 2007, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) has worked to quantify and mitigate terrapin road mortality. Throughout the nesting season of May through July, GSTC staff regularly monitor the causeway to perform a census of the terrapins.

Injured animals receive treatment at the GSTC Hospital, while uninjured individuals are uniquely marked and released away from the road. These marked terrapins are key to understanding the proportion of the nesting population which succumbs to road mortality, and the information is used to assess whether the population is growing, stable, or declining.

A little history about Davide Zailo….

Between 2014-2016 Davide was awarded a student assistantship at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center while working towards a master’s degree in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development at the University of Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology. During his assistantship, which was funded by JIF and a Coastal Incentive Grant from GDNR via NOAA, Zailo studied the movements and behavior of priority turtle species on Jekyll. Support from JIF donors funded the purchase of much-needed research equipment including a drone and GPS tracking equipment. The drone and GPS methods Zailo produced have been utilized by researchers studying a variety of wildlife throughout North America. After a brief stint with the Georgia DNR in winter 2020-2021 working with North Atlantic Right Whales, Davide returned to the GSTC and is currently the Center’s Research Program Manager, leading a staff of eight research technicians.

Contact Us

Jekyll Island Foundation

P.O. Box 13002, Jekyll Island, GA 31527
Phone: (912) 635-4100

 

Looking to contact the Jekyll Island Authority? Please click here.