NCWRC Seeks Volunteers for Terrapin Survey

Diamondback Terrapins
Diamondback terrapin (Andrew Gosse/NCWRC)

Diamondback Terrapins are small, aquatic turtles that live near coastal marshes, estuaries and tidal creeks. They are listed in North Carolina as a species of special concern and a Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

Once considered a delicacy, diamondbacks were harvested in large numbers for sale to restaurants. Their meat is considered superior to snapping turtles in dishes such as turtle soup. A century later, turtle isn’t on many restaurant menus, but development and water quality issues have threatened the species.

Although much more common in coastal counties, diamondbacks have been found in the lower reaches of the Waccamaw River in southern Columbus and Brunswick, as well as eastern Columbus in the Cape Fear tidewater.

With the help from more than a thousand volunteer kayakers, this community science effort, led by the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission and supported by several  partner organizations, has been conducting surveys each spring to learn more about this turtle. (Information on this year’s event can be viewed at 2024 Terrapin Tally.)

Volunteers are the key to success for this project, and we want to get the word out to kayakers and naturalists who may want to help. This is the tenth year of the volunteer-supported initiative, and the survey has gathered important information about the lowly reptiles.

Some of the other accomplishments include:

  • Documented relative density of terrapins in the southern portion of the coastal area
  • Began building a data set that will allow for population trend analyses in the future
  • Provided data to coastal research community (including UNCW) and sister agency (Division of Marine Fisheries) for inclusion in development of blue crab fishery/diamondback terrapin interaction management decision-making
  • Educated hundreds of community members about the species (thousands if you count media coverage) and engaged them in community science

We have ambitious goals about collecting data across the entire coast of North Carolina so we can better understand the population and condition of this species. It takes time and substantial effort to build a large enough data-set to answer some of the questions we are hoping to answer,” said Hope Sutton, Eastern Wildlife Diversity Supervisor, NCWRC.

Participants supply their own kayaks and mobile phones and there is a mandatory training session, which this year takes place Saturday, April 13 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Wilmington and Pine Knoll Shores, and also includes a virtual opportunity.

For more information, go to

About Jefferson Weaver 2033 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].