The Totally True Tale of the Ninesprings Terrapins (and why you shouldn’t be Terrified)
You may have heard that there are terrapins living in and around the waters of Yeovil Country Park.
More alarmingly, you may also have heard rumours that these terrapins may have been responsible for the loss of other wildlife around Ninesprings.
We put these rumours to Kristy Davies, one of our Countryside rangers who looks after Yeovil Country Park to see if we could clear up a few of the myths. Be warned, there are some details later on that sensitive readers might wish to avoid.
Q. Are there terrapins in the lake at Ninesprings?
A. “Yes, we have four or five adult Red-eared terrapins in the lake at Ninesprings currently. It’s our belief that the terrapins were released illegally, we assume from owners who can no longer provide a home for them.
“We humanely caught three adults last year and rehomed them. We are actively trying to humanely catch the remaining terrapins and will look to rehome them responsibly.”
Q. Are these terrapins dangerous and are they attacking other wildlife?
“This question will be in relation to the loss of cygnets that has occurred this year and I would say with certainty that the terrapins that we have on the lake did not harm or, indeed, kill the cygnets.
“It is a common myth that people latch onto nationally in the UK that terrapins will kill.”
Q. How can you be sure?
A. “Basically, adult terrapins are 90% herbivorous (their diet consists of aquatic vegetation and algae, and more rarely, insect larvae, insects, (small) fish and aquatic snails. They will not attack cygnets.
“As I said, we are trying to remove and rehome but they are extremely quick and difficult to catch. We definitely don’t want any of our visitors to try and do it themselves! We aim to remove all of the terrapins in our lake as they are a non-native species. They cannot breed in our current climate but with increasing UK temperatures there is the risk that they could in the future.
‘’We are investigating a humane terrapin trap design which once constructed we will install in the Ninesprings lake. It’s best not to try and catch a terrapin yourself as they can snap.”
Q. So what did happen to the cygnets this year?
A. “The swans and cygnets are wild birds and in nature like many other birds are food for many species. Unfortunately, they do not sit very high up the food chain. Possible culprits are stoat, fox, gulls or our resident heron but it is hard to be certain. A month or so back we found a dead cygnet (still quite small then) which had a small wound to its back which would indicate a dive bomb attack most likely from a gull or heron. We often see gulls dive bombing ducklings, little grebe chicks etc.
“I think that quite often people misunderstand nature and are not aware that birds will lay so many eggs to increase the chance of young reaching maturity by accommodating for the loss of chicks.
“A good myth busting article worth a read is here https://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/attacks.htm
Q. How can I find out more about wildlife at Yeovil Country Park?
A. “You can visit www.southsomersetcountryside.com and learn more about all the wonderful countryside sites the South Somerset District Council cares for.
“We host a wide range of event all year round so keep an eye on our social media and website for information on all of these. Our website also includes information about nature trails, our wildlife and much more with information also available on display boards in the county park and at Ninesprings Café.”