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Operation Terrapin Rescue at Port Mahon


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What is Operation Terrapin Rescue?

Turtle tunnel at Port MahonOperation Terrapin Rescue is a volunteer program whose objective is to help diamond-backed terrapins move safely between the Delaware Bay and their nesting sites at Port Mahon, while also collecting accurate and valuable data on the terrapins' movements.

Project background

Diamond-backed terrapins inhabit estuaries and tidal marshes along Delaware’s coast. Although they spend the majority of their life in brackish water habitats, females venture on land to find nesting sites in late May–July. One of the many places terrapins nest in Delaware is along Port Mahon Road in Little Creek. Port Mahon Road snugly borders the Delaware Bay, and the unvegetated, sandy roadsides are great nesting habitat for diamond-backed terrapins.

In 2015, very large stones were placed along sections of Port Mahon Road to protect the road from erosion. Unfortunately, these rocks created a barrier for the terrapins and they got trapped within the rocks as they came to nest. Also, the rocks blocked their path back to the bay, causing terrapins to spend more time in the road making them vulnerable to being struck by vehicles. To alleviate the problem, the Delaware Department of Transportation added two “turtle tunnels,” wide concrete pipes that run under the rocks and road, to provide the terrapins a safe avenue to make their way to and from the bay and nesting areas. However, since Port Mahon Road is approximately 2 miles long, additional volunteer efforts are necessary.

What will volunteers do?

Volunteers sign up for specific 3-hour long shifts associated with high tide. Volunteers walk/drive Port Mahon Road and look for terrapins that need help navigating around the rocks. The number of turtles observed and location for each sighting are recorded on a datasheet.

To volunteer:

Diamondback TerrapinContact Nate Nazdrowicz at 302-735-8688 or New volunteers must complete a Volunteer Application Form. Volunteer training sessions are held at Port Mahon in May and June.

Additional materials for volunteers:

Volunteer Instructions

Terrapin Datasheet

Port Mahon Site Map

Port Mahon High Tide Chart

Volunteer Timesheet*

Group Volunteer Timesheet*

*These forms must be completed in ink and the original copy mailed to:

Nate Nazdrowicz
Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife
Species Conservation and Research Program
6180 Hay Point Landing Road
Smyrna, DE 19977

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