Make Way for the Diamondbacks of Barrington

By ecoRI News staff

BARRINGTON, R.I. — Every June, nearly 400 females from Rhode Island's only remaining diamondback terrapin colony emerge from months of hibernation underwater — they breath by absorbing oxygen through their mouth — to climb a steep hill to the nesting ground at the Doug Rayner Wildlife Sanctuary.

For 23 years, local resident Charlotte Sornborger has led a volunteer effort through the Barrington Land Conservation Trust to track the terrapins as they nest. Baskets, called excluders, are placed over nesting sites to protect the eggs from predators. Sornborger's team returns in August to aid the hatchlings journey to the cove. Most terrapins don't finish the trip, becoming prey for herons, coyotes and raccoons.

About 370 female terrapins are actively tracked, some for more than 40 years. "We figure if we can sustain the population we are doing well," Sornborger said.

As of June 22, 136 females had been recorded. Sunny days at high tide are best for viewing the terrapins as they make their trek.