We live on Beach Island, NJ about 200 yards from the bay and about 200 yards from the top of the 20 foot ocean dunes.

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Customer: We live on Long Beach Island, NJ about 200 yards from the bay and about 200 yards from the top of the 20 foot ocean dunes. Either from the bay or the ocean there is a street to be crossed. A turtle was laying eggs, during the afternoon, in our sandy backyard. She was about 8 or 9 inches across, didn't have a "beak" but it looked like a smooth head with yellow lips. Do you think that this is a land turtle or a sea turtle?

Thanks for your help, Sandra Gittings
Answered by DrAmyH in 9 mins 12 years ago
9+ years of experience

264 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary

Hello Sandra and thank you for your question!


If she is still there is it possible to post a picture?


Also, could you see her front legs? Do they look flipper-like or claws?


I will wait for your reply. Thanks!

I am sorry it took so long to get back to you but I wanted to check with my son. I thought she had flippers but in the pictures they look like legs. My son's friend sent the picture to someone who should know and they said it was a diamonback terrapin.

Now this brings up a lot of interesting questions. These eggs were laid in our recently cleared backyard that is next to an undeveloped bushy area that runs south/west about 400 feet to the bay. The bay is also about 200 feet to the north but would have to cross curbs and roadways. Could you guess from which direction the turtle came? The area to the south and west is about to be developed.

Do they live in the water or the land?

Also is there something I should do to protect the nest. We were about to spread stone on the area.

If the babies hatch, how can we help them?

What's the difference between a terapin and a turtle?

Thanks for your help.


Thank you for the additional information Sandra.


Terrapin is synonymous with turtle.


Diamondback terrapins are marine turtles that live in brackish water and only come onto land to lay their eggs. The eggs she laid will hatch in between 9 and 15 weeks.


It is difficult to predict which direction she came from. It would make the most sense that she came from the direction where there were less obstacles (ie curbs and roads). However, turtles are often victims of taking dangerous routes to lay eggs, so she could have just been lucky to make it to her nesting location. Protecting the nest will just involve delaying your landscaping plans if possible.


There is an organization in southern New Jersey that is active is helping the Diamondback Terrapin. Here are a couple websites with some contact information.




I recommend you call the Wetland Institute and let them know of the nest. They may be interested in collecting the eggs and incubating them and giving the babies a head start in life by releasing them directly into the water when they hatch. If they can't do it, they may know of another conservation group that does.


If you are left on your own, then you could set up a "baby turtle watch" and once the babies hatch follow them and help them reach their destination. This would involve a hands off approach while they head off in the direction they will go via instinct. If they reach an obstacle, like a curb or road, you can carry them across and set them back down on the other side. However, this may not be a practical or safe option if you live near busy roads. Keep your safety the top priority if you do try and help them get to the water. They may hatch when you are not available to help.


Again, the best bet would be to locate a group that is active in helping turtles as I mentioned above.


Please let me know if you have any other questions. I am here to help!


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