Going Turtling! : Week 1 and Project Rundown

Week 1 of the turtle project was a fairly slow start. We caught 3 turtles overall, 3 beautiful males. All around 13 cm length of carapace. In terms of by-catch we caught several crabs, 2 silver perch, and a rather large flounder! It was an exciting start to the project, both my partner and I always love to interact with the animals, even if they aren’t the animals we are looking for!

In terms of how the project was structured, we had  5 pots in 2 bays in the Catlett Islands off of the York River, Bay 1 had 3 pots in it and Bay 2 had 2. Both areas were well sheltered from river currents and wind, making them perfect places for turtles to shelter and live. We baited the pots with frozen menhaden twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays; and left the pots open over the weekends. We checked the pots every day in the morning, and when we found turtles, we would measure  and record the carapace length, width, and depth,  and record the sex and approximate age of each turtle. We would also check the females for eggs and then tag each of the captured the turtles with their numbers in case of recapture.


Here is some background information on the turtles before we go in depth on the project:

  1. Terrapins are small turtles, and therefore have relatively small ranges, usually only a few km, so even traveling across the river would be a bit of a stretch for most of them. It is for this reason that we were anticipating recaptures.
  2. Terrapins  range from around 5 -10 inches (about 13 – 26 cm) in carapace length in adults, and display sexual dimorphism, in this case, the males are much smaller than the females. Males also mature faster, at around 3-4 years, and females around 6 years.
  3. Terrapins live in brackish water (like the York River) and preferred shallow bays for shelter from currents and for hunting. They usually eat small fish and other organisms.
  4. They excrete salt from their eyes like sea turtles as a method of homeostasis!
  5. Finally, terrapins have had a long history of being hunted down  to near extinction and eaten as delicacies during colonization, leading to the question of their population status currently.

For some more in depth facts, and another study to reference, here is a link to the university of Georgia’s webpage on Terrapins! :