Ask Little Egg Harbor to help us protect terrapins!
by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager
Currently there are no posted speed limits on Great Bay Boulevard from Sea Isle Drive to the east end in Little Egg Harbor Township, Ocean County, New Jersey. The road bisects one of the largest state wildlife management areas along the entire coast of New Jersey which is also designated as the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve. Designation as a National Estuarine Research Reserve is “to promote the responsible use and management of the nation’s estuaries through a program combining scientific research, education, and stewardship.” The habitat alongside the road is home a diverse array of wildlife and one species, the northern diamondback terrapin, often crosses the roadway to get to prime nesting areas along the road shoulders.
Female terrapins range in length from 6-9″ and actively search for nesting areas during summers months from May through July. They are hard to see with their dark coloration and high speed limits make identification even harder. On some days as many as 50 terrapins can be seen crossing the road. Many people stop to help these terrapins cross safely and they themselves put their lives in jeopardy. Luckily no one has been seriously injured or killed yet. Unfortunately, terrapins aren’t so lucky, previous studies have indicated that up to 30% of terrapins are killed on Great Bay Blvd. while attempting to find suitable nesting areas (Szerlag and McRobert, 2006).
The Township of Little Egg Harbor knows about the problem there but has done little to help solve it. Public safety should be a serious concern for any type of government. In other parts of New Jersey and in other states people and property have been seriously injured or killed and damaged while either helping one cross safely or by avoiding a collision with them.
Little Egg Harbor can help reduce the chances that a pedestrian gets killed or injured, and they can reduce the amount of terrapins that are killed by motor vehicles. By reducing the speed limit along the road from 50 mph to 30mph both people and wildlife benefit and motorists get to their destination safely.
Szerlag, S., and S. P. McRobert. 2006. Road occurrence and mortality of the northern diamondback terrapin. Applied Herpetology 3:27-37.