West Barnstable, Massachusetts
Orenda’s Smith’s Dock Sanctuary, which consists of 5 acres in West Barnstable, provides not only a peaceful spot with an impressive view but is also habitat for the Northern Diamondback Terrapin Turtle. This beautiful Sanctuary is one of only 17 places within Massachusetts where these threatened turtles can be found.
Terrapin Turtles nest only in brackish water, in salt marshes and tidal rivers, from Cape Cod to the coast of Florida and around to the gulf coast of Texas. They are found locally in the Sandy Neck beach area. Diamondback Terrapins were hunted almost to extinction in the 1700 and 1800’s as they were widely considered a delicacy. Though the are rarely eaten these days, they face other challenges in the form of habitat destruction and have yet to bounce back from previous over harvesting. Diamondback Terrapin Turtles have been added to the “Threatened” species list in Massachusetts.
The Diamondback Terrapin’s shell is covered with plates called scutes that bear deep, diamond-shaped growth rings. The top shell is light brown, black, or gray, and the bottom shell ranges in color from yellow to olive. Black spots and wiggly marks, in a pattern unique to each turtle, appear on the reptile’s skin which can be white, brown or green. Females Terrapins are 6 to 9 inches long with short tails while the males are only 4 to 6 inches in length, with long tails. Terrapins eat fish, mollusks, and insects.
Consisting of an acre of upland and over four acres of salt marsh, the majority of the Smith’s Dock property is part of the Great Salt Marsh in West Barnstable and boarders 50 acres of Barnstable County Conservation Commission Land. A generous member donated appreciated stock so that Orenda could purchase this special property after selling the proceeds.
directions: from the intersection at Route 149 drive west on Route 6A for about a mile. Turn right onto Meadow Lane continue to the end of the road.