Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Abandoned Crab Traps Prove to be Deadly Attractant to Texas Diamondback Terrapins in Galveston Bay
Southwest Region, February 28, 2005
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Staff and volunteers of the Texas Chenier Plain Refuge Complex participated in statewide efforts to remove abandoned crab traps from tidal waters in February. The crab trap removal program, sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, has removed thousands of traps from coastal waters of Texas over the last four years. Abandoned traps are a significant source of mortality for many estuarine and marine fish and wildlife species. From February 18 to 27, eleven staff members and 9 volunteers from Anahuac NWR removed 265 traps from Galveston Bay waters, and Refuge Manager Bossert and a volunteer removed 23 traps from tidal waters on Texas Point NWR. This marked the 4th year of participation by the Refuge Complex in the removal program, and the number of abandoned crab traps found has declined, at least in areas covered repeatedly. While the removal program has undoubtedly resulted in fewer abandoned traps, the potential effect of even a small number of traps on marine wildlife was highlighted by the discovery of 20 dead Texas Diamondback terrapins in just three traps located in shallow tidal streams and flats connecting to East Bay just south of the Anahuac NWR. These traps were relatively close together, and another trap found in East Bay contained a single dead terrapin. The Texas Diamondback terrapin is listed by the State of Texas as a Species of Concern. The population status of all subspecies of Diamondback terrapins across their ranges along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts is either unknown or declining. The Texas Diamondback terrapin is a subspecies which occurs in coastal waters of southwestern Louisiana and the Texas Gulf Coast. Very little is known about its population status and habitat requirements.

Crab traps are known to be a significant source of mortality for terrapins along the Atlantic Coast. This incident has heightened concern for Texas Diamondback terrapins and the potential impacts of abandoned crab traps on this species in Texas. Refuge Complex and Ecological Services staff are now coordinating with other state and federal agencies and conservation organizations on ways to enhance and expand public outreach and education efforts and to initiate needed research and monitoring on this species.

Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov
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