Diamondback Terrapin Project

The diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is a truly unique species as the only turtle in the western hemisphere to live exclusively in brackish water (water that is a mixture of fresh and salt water). Southwest Florida is home to two of seven subspecies — the mangrove diamondback terrapin and ornate diamondback terrapin.

Diamondback terrapin numbers dramatically declined in the 1900s due to overharvesting for meat. Once laws were enacted to protect them, populations generally rebounded, though bycatch in crab traps has resulted in slower recovery in some areas.

At SCCF, our biologists are working to learn more about diamondback terrapin ecology to conserve this species in Southwest Florida for years to come.

How We Help


Our preserves, conservation land, and restoration work helps ensure diamondback terrapins have the habitat they need to survive and thrive into the future. 


SCCF biologists mark and recapture terrapins to assess population status and movement patterns. Captured turtles are marked with notching and internal pit tags for future identification and to thwart possible poaching.


SCCF continually advocates for stronger diamondback terrapin protections, such as now-mandatory bycatch reduction devices for recreational crab traps.

Diamondback terrapin facts

  • They're named for the diamond-like pattern on their carapace.
  • While technically freshwater turtles, the salinity of water terrapins swim in can range from 50% fresh/salt water to pure sea water.
  • Females are larger than males. Males are typically 4-5″ in length, while females are generally 5-9″.
  • In South Florida, their main habitats are salt marshes and mangrove waterways.
  • Diamondback terrapins cannot be removed from the wild or owned in Florida.
image of diamondback terrapin turtle

Diamondback terrapin threats

  • Bycatch in crab traps. Many states, including Florida, have required mandatory bycatch reduction devices to prevent terrapin mortality.
  • Boat and vehicle strikes
  • Poaching for the pet trade
  • Habitat loss and development
  • Water pollution
image of terrapins captured in a crab trap

Questions or want to get involved? Contact us at 239-472-3984 or terrapin@sccf.org.

Terrapin News