Conserve Wildlife Blog

Volunteers needed to help install barrier fence

June 1st, 2011

Protecting Terrapins through conservation along Great Bay Blvd.

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Great Bay Blvd. in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. © Ben Wurst

Northern Diamondback Terrapins are native to New Jersey and inhabit the many miles of coastal salt marshes along the Atlantic Coast and Delaware Bay. Terrapins were once very common and were used as a main food source of protein by Native Americans and then European settlers. In the early 1900’s it was hunted so extensively that it almost faced extinction. Luckily, during the 1920’s, use of terrapins for food dropped in popularity. This allowed the population to slightly recover and avoid extinction. However, several major threats still threaten their survival. Habitat loss, mortality from being drowned in crab traps, and road mortality all pose major threats to the health of the population. Each year thousands of terrapins are killed by motor vehicles throughout their range and here in New Jersey, Great Bay Boulevard is no exception.

Great Bay Boulevard or Seven Bridges Road extends approximately 5 miles into estuarine emergent wetlands and northern diamondback terrapin nesting habitat. The boulevard is surrounded by over 5,500 acres of protected coastal habitat (Great Bay Boulevard Wildlife Management Area – Managed by NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife), a relatively unspoiled, estuarine ecosystem. This road, at times, has high a volume of traffic, especially on weekends when boaters and outdoorsmen travel on the road to get to and from one of the several active marinas along the road. Currently during May-August there is no protection to terrapins when they cross Great Bay Blvd. from vehicle traffic. Most terrapins who cross the road are adult females who are laden with eggs and are looking for a suitable nesting site. These females lay their eggs in a sand/gravel mixture where it is easy for them to dig and cover their eggs, like sandy beaches and in scrub-shrub habitat along road edges. Many female terrapins are inadvertently hit-by-car and injured or killed by speeding motorists or people unaware of the summer nesting habits of the terrapin. This high mortality rate has caused the local population to decline and it has also caused the average size of adults to drop significantly over the past 20 years.

How you can help:

Volunteers are needed to help install ~ 4,000 ft. of barrier fencing along Great Bay Blvd to help reduce the amount of road kills. Sambol construction will be helping us by trenching a ditch for us to place the fence in. Volunteers will help lay out fence, install metal posts, hang fence, and back fill trenches.

  • Please pack a lunch and bring plenty of water, sunblock, and bug spray.
  • We are starting work on Friday at 8am, but if we don’t finish, we’ll wrap up work on Saturday morning.
  • We will meet after the first bridge; click here for a Google Map link. You can park here and then we can car pool to the section of the road where the fence will be installed.
  • Please register if you plan to attend by emailing Ben Wurst.

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