Last year, Eastham’s Bill Allan released 1500 diamondback terrapin hatchlings, half the total number released under Wellfleet Bay’s terrapin monitoring program. Bill began his turtle work 12 years ago when he became semi-retired and wanted to pursue something related to wildlife conservation.
“The sanctuary was monitoring terrapins in Wellfleet but there was nothing going on to protect turtles in Eastham,” Bill recalls.
In the late spring of 2002, Bill began surveying for egg shards, signs of nesting activity. But getting access to many spots was difficult because much of the available habitat was on private property. As it turned out, most homeowners became supportive of Bill’s work. “Not only did they give me permission to check for nests on their land, they would often call whenever they saw turtle activity. It’s become a real community effort,” he adds.
Unlike the sanctuary where teams of volunteers patrol for nests and later hatchlings, Bill’s team includes only a handful of people. Ann Vaughn, who is one of them, says Bill has worked hard to create turtle gardens—south-facing, sandy patches turtles like for nesting— so that fewer animals are injured or killed trying to cross roads to get to suitable habitat.
Bill’s latest effort on behalf of Eastham’s diamondback terrapins is to try to protect some of the most productive and beautiful nesting habitat in town. Eastham selectmen recently approved applying for a grant that Bill hopes could lead to purchasing two parcels, known as Terrapin Cove, for permanent conservation.
When you consider Bill also supervises Eastham sea turtle rescues in the fall, it’s not surprising that he’s accumulated more than 5 thousand hours of volunteer service at Wellfleet Bay, one of only three individuals to have achieved that milestone.