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New Rules for Diamondback Terrapins

NOTICE OF DIAMONDBACK TERRAPIN CAPTIVE BREEDING EVALUATION WORKSHOP

Commission staff will lead a discussion on the topic of captive breeding as it relates to diamondback terrapins. Commission staff will provide background on process, status of diamondback terrapin conservation, outline potential management options for captive breeding the species, and share data and knowledge gaps which will need to be considered. These webinars will provide the public opportunities to ask questions and provide feedback on potential management changes affecting diamondback terrapins in Florida. Webinars will be held on Tuesday, May 31 at 1 p.m. (Eastern Time) and Thursday, June 2 at 6 p.m. (Eastern Time).

How to join the webinar

Have a terrapin?

You can keep your pet or educational animal. Click the register button to visit the permitting portal.

On December 16, 2021, FWC Commissioners approved rule changes in Chapter 68A-25, F.A.C., regarding diamondback terrapins. Effective March 1, 2022, pet owners and other entities possessing terrapins have 90 days to come into compliance. 

News Release 

Important Dates for New Rule

Effective date for new rules: March 1, 2022 

The 90-day grace period for pet owners to apply for a Diamondback Terrapin Personal Possession Permit ends on May 31, 2022. 

Individuals or institutions which currently possess diamondback terrapins for education, display or outreach must apply for Diamondback Terrapin Permit for Exhibition and Education by May 31, 2022 

Diamondback terrapins may not be purchased or possessed for commercial or private sale purposes after March 1, 2022. 

Those in possession of a Scientific Collecting Permit for educational possession of terrapins must apply for a Diamondback Terrapin Permit for Exhibition and Education 90 days prior to the scientific collecting permit expiration date. 

Exhibitors and educators who wish to possess a terrapin after May 31, 2022 must apply for a Diamondback Terrapin Permit for Exhibition and Education prior to obtaining a terrapin. 

Diamondback Terrapin Permits

Close up of a terrapin walking along edge of mangroves

People who have diamondback terrapins as pets prior to March 1, 2022, may apply for a no-cost Diamondback Terrapin Personal Possession Permit to keep that pet for the life of the animal. Only animals possessed prior to March 1, 2022, are eligible to be permitted for personal possession. This species may not be newly acquired as a pet after the rules take effect. Diamondback Terrapin Personal Possession Permits must be renewed every 10 years and will be reissued as long as the animal is alive and is still kept in Florida. Permits will expire upon the animals passing.

Terrapin sitting in shallow water in front of a clump of mangrove trees

Individuals or institutions possessing diamondback terrapins as educational or outreach animals may continue to keep or acquire terrapins for this purpose. After March 1, 2022, a Diamondback Terrapin Permit for Exhibition and Education will be required to possess terrapins. Individuals or institutions wishing to possess terrapins for educational purposes may continue to obtain terrapins, provided the terrapins are not removed from the wild. A Diamondback Terrapin Permit for Exhibition and Education is valid for 10 years but needs to be updated if the number of terrapins possessed change.

Terrapin sitting in shallow water in sandy area

Individuals interested in performing scientific research on diamondback terrapins may require a Scientific Collecting permit.

Frequently Asked Questions-Diamondback Terrapin Rule Change

FWC Commissioners approved rule changes in Chapter 68A-25, F.A.C., specifically to Rule 68A-25.002 regarding possession of diamondback terrapins. These rules govern the possession and use of most native reptiles. Rule language has been modified to:

"No person shall take, possess, transport, or sell any diamond-backed terrapins (also referred to as diamondback terrapins, Malaclemys terrapin), except by permit. Permits may be issued for personal possession, exhibition and education, and scientific use. Permit issuance is in accordance with the Diamond-backed Terrapin Permit Application Guidance, effective March 1, 2022 and hereby incorporated by reference at https://www.flrules.org/Gateway/reference.asp?No=Ref-13929. Persons in possession of diamond-backed terrapins shall have 90 days from the effective date of this rule to come into compliance with the provisions of this section."

The effective date for the new rules is March 1, 2022.

There is a 90-day grace period for individuals to register pet terrapins.

Exhibitors and educators must apply for a no-cost Diamondback Terrapin Permit for Exhibition and Education to maintain current terrapins or obtain new terrapins for educational purposes. Individuals or institutions which currently possess diamondback terrapins for education, display or outreach must apply for a Diamondback Terrapin Permit for Exhibition and Education a permit by May 31, 2022.

Apply for either a Diamondback Terrapin Personal Possession Permit or a Diamondback Terrapin Permit for Exhibition and Education. Both permit applications are available at the FWC permitting portal.

For permit applications, you will need to provide your name, contact information, number of terrapins possessed, description of caging requirements, and photographs of your terrapin showing shell patterning from the top view, side view, and head patterning from the top and side view. Please review the diamondback terrapin permit application guidance for complete permit requirements.

If you submit your complete and accurate permit application to the FWC before the end of the 90-day grace period, you will be compliant. Please review the diamondback terrapin permit application guidance for complete permit requirements.  

Yes, pet diamondback terrapins can be transferred prior to the rule implementation on March 1, 2022, provided the recipient applies for a Diamondback Terrapin Personal Possession Permit prior to the end of the grace period. After the rule takes effect, it will be illegal to sell diamondback terrapins. After the rules take effect, it will be possible to transfer possession of pet terrapins, as long as they are not sold. Please contact WildlifePermits@MyFWC.com for guidance on how to transfer a permit.

No. Conditions in the permit state that male and female terrapins must be housed separately to prevent breeding.

A Diamondback Terrapin Permit for Exhibition and Education may be issued for exhibition and education of diamondback terrapins for the purpose a of providing a benefit to the public. Permits may be issued to accredited or non-accredited public aquariums, public zoological parks, educational facilities, and public exhibitors providing educational exhibits that include diamondback terrapin(s). Permits may be issued to these entities to keep and display non-releasable terrapins obtained from an FWC-licensed rehabilitation facility or other legal means.

Educators and exhibitors already need a permit to display terrapins, either a Class III license or a Scientific Collecting Permit, depending on the number of terrapins displayed. The revised permit structure will streamline the application process and provide additional options to those that use terrapins as a component of conservation education.

If you are issued a permit to possess diamondback terrapins, FWC personnel may conduct announced or unannounced inspections of the permitted location where the animal(s) are being held.

Terrapins face many threats, including habitat loss and degradation, road mortality, predation, climate change, over-collection, and accidental capture in crab traps. The FWC is addressing these threats through management, planning, partnerships and policy. This rule change will provide additional conservation measures for wild terrapins.

The FWC is implementing a multi-approach conservation effort to conserve diamondback terrapins. Beyond prohibiting the removal of terrapins from the wild for personal or commercial uses, the diamondback terrapin rule changes also require rigid funnel openings or bycatch reduction devices on recreational use blue crab traps to reduce accidental terrapin deaths. The FWC also leads and works with partners on diamondback terrapin research projects.

FWC programs, including the Wildlife Management Area system, Critical Wildlife Areas, Living Shorelines Programs, and Coastal Dunes Restoration, directly benefit Florida’s terrapins by creating and enhancing habitat. In addition, the FWC has invested more than $12 million in habitat restoration since 2009, including marsh, mangrove, and oyster restoration and enhancement, increasing habitat for diamondback terrapins and other Florida fish and wildlife species.