Meeting Abstract

P1.28  Jan. 4  Survey of Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemmys terrapin) Populations in Alabama Salt Marshes COLEMAN, A.T.*; WIBBELS, T.; MARION, K.; NELSON, D.; BORDEN, J.; LANGFORD, G.; DINDO, J.; Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham; Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham; Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham; Univ. of South Alabama; Univ. of South Alabama; Univ. of Nebraska at Lincoln; Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Alabama colemana@uab.edu

The demography and ecology of Malaclemmys terrapin pileata were studied in the salt marshes of southwestern Alabama during 2004–2006. A variety of methodologies were utilized in an attempt to obtain information on population density and nesting activity. This included head surveys and modified crab traps in salt marshes, depredated nest surveys and drift fences with pitfall traps on nesting beaches, and radio tracking of reproductive females. In 2004, twenty-four heads were spotted in eleven total surveys of Cedar Point Marsh, Airport Marsh, Mon Louis Creek, and Little Dauphin Island. Seventy-four depredated nests were found on the nesting beaches surrounding these marshes. In 2005, twenty-five heads were seen in seven surveys of the four marshes. However, only fifteen depredated nests were observed that year (primarily due to overwash of nesting areas due to a series of storms). In 2006, forty heads were observed in thirteen surveys, although these head surveys were completed only in Cedar Point and Jemison’s Marsh. The nest surveys were concentrated on the beaches surrounding Cedar Point Marsh, where 109 depredated nests were found. Seven adult females were captured in the pitfall traps, and two females were captured while nesting. Seventeen terrapins were caught in the modified crab traps. All turtles were PIT tagged and their shells notched. The results suggest that limited populations of terrapins exist in the salt marshes of Alabama with the largest detected nesting aggregation occurring near Cedar Point. The stability and threats to the conservation of these populations are currently being examined in order to assess optimal management strategies.