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Keywords:

  • crab trap;
  • diamondback terrapin;
  • Malaclemys terrapin;
  • mortality;
  • roads;
  • turtle

Abstract

Human activities, including the harvesting of natural resources and land development, place substantial pressure on wildlife. The diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is a small, estuarine species of emydid turtle in decline and at risk due to a suite of human activities. Vehicle-induced mortality from increasing coastal traffic and bycatch mortality in crab pots have been recognized as 2 of the primary conservation concerns for terrapins. We used mark-recapture estimates of terrapin density and sex ratio from repeated seining samples of 29 randomly stratified selected tidal creeks to evaluate the current relationships between road and crabbing pressures and the abundance, sex ratio, and size distribution of terrapin populations along the Georgia coast. We obtained 2005 captures of 1,547 individual terrapins among 29 tidal creeks sampled. Population density estimates ranged from 0 to 1,040 terrapins/km among tidal creeks with a median density of 65 terrapins/km. Among all sites, terrapin density declined with increasing crabbing activity within the creek, but was not related to proximity to roads. Sex ratios did not vary significantly with crabbing activity or proximity to roads; however, we found a significantly larger proportion of smaller-sized terrapins in creeks with no crabbing activity. Although roads may have significant localized effects on terrapin populations, we found no measurable association between proximity to roads and current variation in terrapin density along the Georgia coast. However, we did find that terrapin density and the proportion of smaller sized individuals within the population were negatively associated with crabbing activities. Bycatch from commercial and recreational activities threaten many species. We add to a growing body of research showing crabbing activities are affecting diamondback terrapin populations across much of the species' range. States committed to the conservation of terrapins and coastal species should focus on reducing bycatch risk; for example by regulating soak times and locations, requiring the use of bycatch reduction devices, and removing abandoned or lost crab pots from coastal habitats. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.