Conserve Wildlife Blog

October 1st, 2020

Survey of Beach Litter Finds Many Threats to Nesting Birds

by Mary Emich

Plover chick next to a seabeach amaranth plant. Photo by Alice Brennan.

Despite hundreds of trash bins conveniently located on the beach, litter is still found in the sand every day. Many people enjoy their summer days at a key beach nesting bird site in Sea Girt. Beach goers leave behind trash that litters the crucial environment. These include plastic bottles, bags, cans, wrappers, straws, fishing line, etc. Plastic pollution effects the surrounding environment and wildlife that inhabits it.

At the Sea Girt beach, piping plovers (Charadrius melodus), an endangered beach nesting bird species, travels hundreds of miles to breed and nest during the summertime. This species is directly affected by the amount of litter that pollutes the beach. Every year shore birds, and many other species, ingest plastic or get entangled in fishing line which lessens their chance of survival.

Seabeach Amaranth. Photo by Meghan Kolk.

Another significant endangered species located at Sea Girt beach is seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus). This annual plant needs a healthy ecosystem free of debris to thrive every season. It is important to maintain a strong coastal habit for reproduction and population growth.

Twenty weeks of litter was collected at the Sea Girt beach with approximately 200 plastic straws, 50 plastic bags, 75 bottles, and 25 pieces of fishing line. Pollution on the beach can be prevented if patrons are mindful of properly disposing their trash at the end of their trip.

20 weeks worth of beach trash recovered from the Sea Girt beach.

Mary Emich is an assistant biologist with Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

September 30th, 2020

NorthJersey.com: How NJ’s horseshoe crabs are key to a COVID-19 vaccine

by Scott Fallon, NorthJersey.com

Horseshoe crabs spawning at Thompsons Beach in May 2015. Photo by Joe Smith.

Perhaps the most remarkable creature to call the waters off New Jersey home is older than the dinosaurs, helps balance the state’s ecosystem and looks like it crept out of the “Aliens” movie franchise.

Now the horseshoe crab is playing a vital role in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, with billions of doses expected to be produced worldwide over the next several years.

“It’s absolutely worthwhile for horseshoe crabs to be used in the development of a vaccine,” said David Wheeler, executive director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. “They play an extraordinary role in public health. But they are irreplaceable in New Jersey and Delaware for how they keep the bird population alive.”

Click here to continue reading.

September 28th, 2020

Tracking The Mammals Of The Coast

by Meaghan Lyon

Beach goers are not the only ones that enjoy the sandy shores of New Jersey’s beaches. Wildlife like deer, fox, racoon, opossum, and skunk also make use of the beach and dunes. At the Sea Girt National Guard Training Center (NGTC), wildlife game cameras have been capturing images of the wildlife prowling in the dunes for the past two years. Conserve Wildlife Foundation has been contracted to monitor wildlife populations at the NGTC under an Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan.

Wildlife game cameras are a common tool used by biologists to observe mammals with very minimal disturbance to the animal itself. The cameras are installed along potential travel paths and dens sites to optimize sightings and when the camera senses movement it captures a series of images or video depending on the specified settings. Wildlife game cameras could also be valuable to homeowners who are curious to see what wildlife they have in their own backyard.

Another useful tool used when determining wildlife populations is tracking. At the NGTC, there are approximately 16 acres of sandy coastal habitat, including the dune and beach. Sand is an ideal substrate for reading tracks as it often provides a clear footprint or other evidence of many species that wander by.

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September 25th, 2020

CWF In The News: Habitat Restoration Project in Barnegat Light a Collaborative Success

by Ethan Gilardi

Piping plover chick foraging along wrack line in Barnegat Light.

CWF Biologist Todd Pover and the Barnegat Light Habitat Restoration Project are back in the news with a wonderful write-up by Juliet Kaszas-Hoch on TheSandpaper.net.

With major construction wrapping in late-2019, we’re now seeing the project’s positive impact on the local piping plover population. Only time will tell just how successful the restoration truly is, but until then we will continue to chart it’s progress and do what we can to make life better for New Jersey’s beach nesters.

Read an except of article here and remember to check out the video update on the project linked below!


With fall on its way, most piping plovers and other migratory coastal birds have headed south, where they will remain for the duration of the winter months. While they’re gone, other species will happily utilize the new pond feature and habitat site along the inlet in Barnegat Lighthouse State Park created specifically to benefit beach-nesting birds such as plovers.

The Barnegat Light Habitat Restoration Project is a collaborative effort led by Todd Pover, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey senior wildlife biologist, and Brooke Maslo, Rutgers University assistant professor of ecology, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife.

As Pover explained in a recent blog post on conservewildlifenj.org, the goal of the project, begun two years ago, was to enhance breeding habitat near Long Beach Island’s north-end inlet “by clearing out the vegetation and re-grading the sand, because this once important breeding site had become overgrown and was no longer suitable for piping plovers to nest. Plans also called for building a shallow pond to create productive foraging habitat for chicks (to) be protected from human disturbance.”

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September 24th, 2020

Help Us Continue the Inspiring Recovery of New Jersey’s Bald Eagles: The first $5,000 donated will be matched dollar for dollar!

by Larissa Smith, CWF Biologist

Photo by Barb McKee

None of us could have predicted what would happen in 2020, and that’s certainly true for New Jersey’s bald eagles.

When our eagle volunteers joined me at our kick-off training in February, we prepared as usual to monitor known nests and educate landowners and the public about the importance of minimizing disturbance to our breeding pairs.

We never imagined how important eagles would become to so many people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dozens of you shared the wonder you felt in seeing eagles fly overhead, some for the first time. Eagles became a sign of strength and resilience for those staying at home, as well as those venturing out to do essential work.

And New Jersey’s eagle population soared – both literally and figuratively – breaking records with more than 200 active nests (with eggs) and 300 young fledged – up from just one pair in the early 1980’s.

We can thank our devoted eagle volunteers for this year’s success, as well as the individual, foundation, and corporate supporters who came through with funding to support our tireless efforts.

Unfortunately, not everyone who gave in the past, or who expected to give this year, donated as planned. And we recently learned that we’re losing our largest project funder for the coming season.

That is why I’m asking you to donate today to help CWF raise $10,000 to help cover the shortfall. Two generous donors have each put up a $2,500 match, which means that the first $5,000 donated will be matched dollar for dollar.

While having the best season on record is exciting news for all of us, important work remains to be done. Eagles still face serious threats of habitat loss and disturbance. The increasing population will require an even larger team of trained volunteers to observe nesting behavior and determine egg laying, hatching, and fledging dates. It also means an increase in the number of injured eagles which will need help. All of this takes time and resources.

For my part, I’m happiest when I’m outside working with bald eagles as I have for 20 years. After all, I’m a biologist, not a fundraiser! But in this case, I’m reaching out to ask for your support for the Eagle Project. We have overcome financial challenges in the past with the help of people like you. Whether you have always supported this project, or have newfound appreciation for these majestic raptors, please help us to ensure that this incredible success story continues to inspire all of us!

Thank you and stay safe.


Learn more about CWF’s Bald Eagle Project here.

Learn more about New Jersey EagleTrax here.

Watch the CWF/Duke Farms Eagle Cam here.