Diamondback terrapins are an important species that live in the waters and salt marshes of Hempstead Bays. They spend most of the year within these brackish waters. Occasionally they can be seen basking in the sun along salt marsh creeks, or seen with their heads just above the surface of the water. Female terrapins are most likely to be spotted on land from late May to August during their nesting season.
The Town of Hempstead Department of Conservation and Waterways is currently working on a research project monitoring the population of diamondback terrapins. This is done using the PIT tagging method, which is when a small chip is inserted under the terrapins skin and can be read using a scanner that will read a unique identification code. This provides information as to when, where and how often female terrapins are coming back up to nest year after year.
Females terrapins can be tagged easily during nesting season when they come up on land to nest. Biologists at the Town of Hempstead regularly patrol known nesting sites to process terrapins at the sites and then release them. Male terrapins do not come on land so trapping must be done to collect data on male terrapin populations in Hempstead Bay. Terrapin are tagged on site and immediately released, so they are not left in the traps for long periods of time.
What To Do If You Find a Terrapin
If you happen to see a terrapin nesting, the best course of action is to allow it to finish its nest. If the terrapin is not in danger it can be left alone. If you do see a terrapin that is injured or unable to find its way back to the water then please call the Department at (516)431-9200 and a Town biologist will come to help.