Conserve Wildlife Blog

Photos from the Field: Giving LBIF’s Terrapins a Boost!

June 7th, 2022

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Over the past several years, I have worked with LBIF to help guide their efforts to provide habitat for wildlife on their property in Loveladies. We have always wanted to establish another, larger “turtle garden” for nesting female N. diamondback terrapins, since they are a common visitor during summer months. This spring we received a small grant from the Garden Club of Long Beach Island to establish a new turtle garden at LBIF. Late last month we ordered 15 tons of mason sand from a local supplier, which provides excellent nesting habitat, with small grain size and little organic matter. Myself and Jeff Ruemeli, who is the new Director of Sciences at LBIF, worked to install coir logs to hold the sand before spreading it out by hand. I followed up with planting around 30 seaside goldenrod plants at the site to help stabilize sand and provide foraging habitat for pollinators.

Turtle garden’s like this are extremely beneficial to nesting female terrapins. Instead of nesting in LBIF’s parking lot, with very compacted and wet soil, this new site gives eggs a much better chance of developing and hatching. In addition, nests can be protected from would be predators with metal cages. While working with CWF and MATES/Project Terrapin under our NJDEP Scientific Collecting Permits, we can also relocate nests from bad areas of their property to the new turtle garden. I personally moved one such nest late last week where a female nesting inside their playground area, which would most certainly get destroyed from all the activity it would see this summer. The site and LBIF’s property will be monitored for nesting terrapins. The establishment of this site at LBIF will also provide an excellent education and engagement opportunity for LBIF staff, members, and visitors to LBI to learn more about diamondback terrapins, who can only thrive if we make sure that they continue to have access to suitable upland habitat to nest and complete their life cycle. We hope to dovetail additional terrapin nest site enhancement projects into living shoreline projects in the future.

Thank you to the Garden Club of LBI for the funding to carry out this project in partnership with LBIF!

Important note – We are permitted by NJDEP Fish & Wildlife to handle northern diamondback adults and eggs under Scientific Collecting Permit #SC2022033. No one should handle adult terrapins unless they are only helping to move across a busy road. Nests should not be disturbed unless an experienced and permitted agent is involved. Terrapins are a nongame species who is listed as a species of special concern and protected by the NJ Endangered Species Protection Act.

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