Smith’s Dock Sanctuary

Smith's Dock Sanctuary
Meadow Lane, West Barnstable, Massachusetts, 5 acres – 1998
Orenda’s Smith’s Dock Sanctuary is a peaceful spot with an impressive view. It’s 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 and were considered a culinary delicacy. Though they are rarely eaten these days, they face other challenges from 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 reveal 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 borders 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.

Diamondback Terrapin

Directions: 210 Meadow Lane, West Barnstable: Drive north to the obvious end of Meadow Lane. Then park. The sanctuary begins on the right along an ancient way road and runs for almost a thousand feet northward through the marsh until it meets Smith Creek.

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