ABSTRACT

Management decisions for species are often based on estimates of abundance, which can be difficult to obtain for species that are a challenge to survey, as are some reptiles. Information on abundance and population status are lacking for the diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin), a coastal species that inhabits brackish waters and plays an important trophic role in the saltmarsh ecosystem. Population declines are suspected throughout the species' range, and its population status is unknown in Florida. Of the 5 subspecies that inhabit Florida's coastline, the most understudied subspecies may be the ornate diamondback terrapin (M. t. macrospilota). We conducted a capture–mark–recapture study of M. t. macrospilota during the summer of 2013 on 3 adjacent coastal islands in the eastern panhandle of Florida that provided information on population size and demography. We captured 334 individuals; modeling estimated a population size of 1282 (867–1905 95% CI) and a density of 150 terrapins/ha. Population size decreased throughout the study, suggesting that this population is an aggregation that seasonally emigrates from the islands. This emigration trend was more evident for females. Males outnumbered females 4:1, and females were larger than males. Our study is the first to report on M. t. macrospilota populations in the Florida panhandle. We recommend collaborative, long-term population monitoring at our sites to estimate population trends that will be crucial for managing this subspecies.

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