2016 Florida Panhandle Diamondback Terrapin Survey Report

Project Objective:

  1. Record sightings of terrapin, or terrapin sign to determine if terrapins still exist in the Florida Panhandle.
  2. Identify nesting beaches for future population studies.


Project Methods:

  1. Train citizen scientist on how to identify terrapins or terrapin sign
  2. Assign volunteers to geographic regions to conduct their surveys
  3. Keep records of all volunteer reports
  4. Confirm/verify sightings and sign when needed


2016 Results:

19 citizens were trained to survey for terrapins.


Citizens were divided into four regions in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties for surveying


Perdido (Escambia Co.) – Big Lagoon State Park, NAS Pensacola, Innerarity Point, Tarkiln Bayou, Weekly Bayou

Pensacola Beach (Escambia) – Range Point, Big Sabine

Garcon (Santa Rosa) – Indian Bayou, I-10 Marsh, Garcon Point

Navarre (Santa Rosa) – Navarre Beach West, Navarre Beach East, Tom King Bayou


42 surveys conducted in 2016


Perdido 26 surveys conducted (61% of total)

15 at Big Lagoon State Park (58% of Perdido surveys, 36% of all surveys)

9 at NAS Pensacola, 1 at Tarkiln Bayou, 1 at Weekly Bayou, 0 at Kees Bayou

NO terrapins, or terrapin sign was found at Perdido in 2016


Pensacola 4 surveys were conducted

Beach All 4 were at Big Sabine

1 depredated nest was discovered at Big Sabine


Garcon 5 surveys were conducted

All 5 were at Indian Bayou

10 records were logged; 9 heads were seen, 1 track on nesting beach


Navarre 7 surveys were conducted

4 surveys were at Navarre Beach West, 2 at Navarre Beach East, 1 at Tom King

4 terrapin records were logged from Navarre

2 tracks and 1 depredated nest were found at Navarre Beach West

1 head was seen at Tom King Bayou


2007 – 2016 Results:


35 locations have been surveyed between Alabama state line and the Gulf/Franklin County line.

222 surveys have been conducted; 66 records have been logged


Escambia Co. – 12 locations – 6 with records, 91 surveys-9 records, 10% probability of detecting

Santa Rosa Co. – 13 locations – 5 with records, 121 surveys – 55 records, 45% probability

Okaloosa Co. – 6 locations – 0 records1

Walton Co. – 3 locations – 1 record, 3 surveys2

Bay Co. – 0 locations3

Gulf Co. – 1 survey – 1 record2


  1. No records were logged during Okaloosa surveys but records have been submitted to project leader from local wildlife rescue
  2. Probability cannot not be determined with fewer than 50 surveys
  3. No surveys or records were conducted by team in Bay County; however, records have been submitted by both USFWS and FWC.


Known Nesting Beaches:


Escambia Kees Bayou – however this beach no longer exist, heavy rains have washed most of the sand away, not aware of where terrapin have re-located nesting

Big Sabine

Santa Rosa Indian Bayou

Navarre Beach West


Okaloosa Unknown


Walton Unknown


Bay Unknown


Gulf Palm Island





We are certain that terrapins still exist in each of the six counties currently begin surveyed but we are not sure how many there are and where all of the nesting beaches exist. The team will continue to search for nesting locations in Perdido to determine where the one population has relocated and to determine if there are other nesting beaches. We hope to expand surveys in Garcon to include Garcon Point. We also hope to conduct intense 16-day nesting beach surveys at both Big Sabine and Navarre Beach West to try and determine number of nesting females at those locations in 2017. The team may deploy modified crab traps at these locations to conduct a mark-recapture study. There are plans to train other volunteers in other counties to conduct these surveys.


The Occupancy Model was designed to monitor relative amphibian abundance and population change in a location over time. Statistically, the number of surveys at a location needs to be 50 or higher for the model to have any validity.


Using this argument

222 surveys have been conducted in the Florida panhandle since 2007. 66 records have been logged suggesting a probability of detecting a terrapin in the Florida panhandle is 30%


Only one site has had 50+ surveys, this is Indian Bayou on Garcon in Santa Rosa County.

76 surveys have been conducted here, 47 records have been logged, and a 62% probability of detecting terrapins at this location has been determined. Active nesting has been occurring here since 2006. Based on the 16-day nesting beach survey method, the highest number of nesting females was determined to be 17; this was in 2010.


33 surveys have been conducted at Big Lagoon State Park. Only two records have been logged. One was a dead female in a hand-held crab net. The other was a track leaving the marsh head to a sandy area for nesting. No nest was found and other species of turtles are nearby. This could have been a different species. Modified crab trap surveys have yielded no terrapins.




Rick O’Connor

Project Leader

Florida Sea Grant, University of Florida/IFAS Extension

October 22, 2016


Posted: November 15, 2016

Category: Coasts & Marine, Conservation, Natural Resources, Wildlife
Tags: Diamondback Terrapins, Marine Turtles, Wildlife Conservation

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