Update: 6 Dozen Turtles Saved from Construction Project

A major construction project is underway in the pond at Annapolis Harbour Center, and thanks to a volunteer conservation group, 75 turtles are safely away from the heavy machinery.

Common Musk Turtle/Terrapin Institute

In preparation for the project to start, the Terrapin Institute has been trapping turtles one by one all summer long at the Annapolis shopping center, and moving them to a temporary home at another nearby pond.

The Harbour Center pond has now been drained and construction has begun to make it deeper and to decrease storm runoff pollution.

Jeff Popp, co-director of the Institute, says there are five different turtle species in the pond, including the common musk turtle, better known as the “stinkpot,” because of a foul odor it secretes to deter predators.

Because turtles hunker down in the mud to avoid danger, instead of fleeing, the project could have wiped many of them out.

 Jeff Popp, Terrapin Institute co-director
Jeff Popp, Terrapin Institute co-director

Popp tells me volunteers have trapped, collected and moved 75 turtles, including 6 snapping turtles and a non-native Yellow-bellied slider. The Yellow-bellied slider, likely a released pet, was taken to a rescue for adoption.

Each turtle was also marked before being released to the temporary pond. That will provide an opportunity to track those turtles in the future. Popp hopes to study how their temporary move affects them in the future: will they successfully settle back into their habitat and reproduce?

Pond construction will likely end in October, but the Terrapin Institute plans to move the turtles back next spring, to give the new pond’s vegetation a chance to grow and provide enough habitat and food sources for the turtles.

Popp praises the South River Federation, Anne Arundel County, the Maryland State Highway Administration, and Lerner Corporation, which owns the shopping center, for supporting the effort to save these turtles.