The turtles should be familiar to most Long Islanders, even if we don’t encounter them often at all. We’ve spotted them occasionally at preservation areas, during nature hikes, and school field trips to learn about the environment of our home island.
And according to a local chapter of the Audubon Society, with their distinctive and namesake diamond-shaped grids that run across their shells, the Diamondback Terrapin Turtle might be the only one of its kind in the whole world to live exclusively in brackish water, like the salt marshes, tidal creeks and estuaries dotting Long Island.
In the winter Diamondback Terrapin Turtles hibernate by burrowing underground.
Spring brings new life even to the turtle population and warmer temperatures means Diamondback Terrapin Turtle hatchlings will be making their way from their beachfront nests to the salt marshes where they can grow and feed on their favorite snacks like tasty snails and fish, succulent worms, meaty clams and crabs, and of course, marsh plants.
Sometimes the trip involves dangerous road crossings and localities are warning residents to keep a watchful eye out as they do.
Photo: Brookhaven Town.
At West Meadow Beach and Creek in Setauket the babies need to cross Trustees Road and make their journey toward the salt marsh along the creek.
“West Meadow Beach is home to a wide variety of plants and animals that are vital to the delicate balance of the local environment,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine in a statement about the turtle crossings in the area. “Their journey is a slow and hazardous one and I ask that people use extreme caution while walking, biking or driving down Trustees Road.”
Friends of Flax Pond, a group dedicated to promoting stewardship and preservation of the coastal areas in the region, is helping by monitoring the baby turtles’ progress.
You can also watch a video about the Long Island turtles called “Save the Terrapins” made by The Nature Conservancy. If you happen to spot a Diamondback Terrapin Turtle in the area you can help by reporting its location on the Long Island Terrapin Watch App.