Governor Announces Plan to Help Preserve State's Reptile
April 5, 2001 - Donning a black and red University of Maryland jacket, Gov. Parris Glendening yesterday visited Grasonville to honor the terrapins. Not the University of Maryland Terrapins. Though these 13 terrapins were named for members of the basketball team that reached the Final Four in the NCAA tournament last week, they can't quite dunk a ball from only 3 inches off the ground.
In fact, the diamondback terrapin -- the official state reptile -- may be struggling to simply survive, a fear that prompted Mr. Glendening to announce yesterday the creation of the Maryland Diamondback Terrapin Task Force. "We're proud of two types of terrapins," he told students gathered on the beach of the Horsehead Wetland Center. The task force will study population trends of the terrapin and recommend ways to protect it.
Mr. Glendening included $100,000 for the study in his supplemental budget, but the Senate cut the funding earlier this week. Now, the study will be paid for by $20,000 from the Department of Natural Resources. Anne Arundel County legislators also have written a letter to Congress asking for federal money, according to Del. Dick D'Amato, D-Annapolis.
DNR [Department of Natural Resources] scientists yesterday tagged and released Terence Morris, Juan Dixon and the 11 other turtles caught recently as part of the effort to preserve the species. Helping the effort are elementary students at St. Mary's School in Annapolis, Millersville Elementary and Samuel Ogle Elementary in Bowie. They're raising baby terrapins that will be released when they're big enough to survive in the wild.
Students from St. Mary's School handed the governor several jars of change totaling $867 to help pay for the study. They're raising three terrapins that they plan to release on May 13. "We started weighing them in March and the best part has been watching them grow," fifth-grader Winnie Melesh said.
State scientists don't know how many terrapins there are, or whether the population is increasing or decreasing. But several signs suggest the species could be in trouble:
The governor plans to appoint nine people to the task force, including a commercial waterman, a representative of the animal welfare community and an expert in the field of terrapin conservation. The group is expected to submit a report of its findings to the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources by Oct. 1.
- Little information on how many turtles are being caught by recreational fishermen.
- The discovery of turtles killed or injured when they're ensnared in crab pots or hit by propeller blades.
- Increased waterfront development, which reduces the amount of access to the sandy beaches necessary for female turtles to lay their eggs.
Article from the Annapolis Capital
© Copyright April 6, 2001, Office of the Secretary of State.
Last Modified January 17, 2003 . bv