During a routine beach patrol, one of our volunteers discovered a mature female diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) stranded on one of the GTM beaches. This is an unusual scenario given that the diamondback terrapin spends its entire lifecycle exclusively in estuarine waters. This displaced animal is of special concern, because while it is not yet listed as a Threatened or Endangered species in Florida, the diamondback terrapin is in decline throughout much of its range. The main causes for this population decline are the loss and fragmentation of its narrow band of coastal habitat.

It’s likely that either strong currents in the St. Augustine Inlet swept her out to sea, or she became disoriented and crossed from the Guana River over A1A and then became stranded on the beach. The rescued turtle was stressed from exposure to sun and salt water and showed signs of a previous injury on her carapace and right rear leg. Our volunteer kindly rescued the dehydrated and lethargic terrapin and brought her back to recuperate at the GTM Research Reserve.

Although not our mission, occasionally GTM receives injured and displaced animals found within its boundaries. Once the terrapin arrived at the Reserve, she was given food and fresh water to bring her back to health. She was retained for three days under the nurturing care of Resource Management Coordinator Joseph Burgess until he deemed her recovered and healthy enough to release back into the wild. Our rescued terrapin was released in the Guana River where we hope she will enjoy a happy existence in the peaceful backwaters of the GTM Research Reserve!

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