Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Great Bay Blvd WMA’

Photo from the Field

Thursday, October 5th, 2017
The Lucky 8: Tiny terrapin hatchlings rescued!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

A clutch of eight tiny terrapin hatchlings found beneath one of our X-ING signs. photo by Ben Wurst

While removing our seasonal (better late than never!) terrapin X-ING signs on Great Bay Blvd. in Little Egg Harbor yesterday, we stumbled upon some tiny northern diamondback terrapin hatchlings. These little guys were hiding or trapped under a very large (and heavy) X-ING sign made from old pallets that someone knocked over (I say guys because they hatched later in the season and it was a very cool August, but some could be girls). At first I didn’t see anything, but upon closer inspection I saw several hatchlings in the vegetation. One, two, three, four, five, six. Then I dug a little with my hand and found two more. The sign had been atop a nest. (more…)

Volunteers needed to help protect terrapins!

Friday, April 24th, 2015
Training Session scheduled for May 12th at 6pm in Tuckerton
A female terrapin pauses while crossing Great Bay Blvd in Little Egg Harbor, NJ.

A female terrapin pauses while crossing Great Bay Blvd in Little Egg Harbor, NJ.

We work hard to protect wildlife for future generations to enjoy. One of those species, who is largely an underserved species in New Jersey is the northern diamondback terrapin. Terrapins are so cool yet hardly noticed by many. They face a HUGE amount of threats. To list a few (from greatest to least): Poaching, drowning in crab traps, road mortality, predation (usually of eggs or young), and collisions with boats and boat props. That’s a long list of threats to the health of their population, which no one really knows how they are doing…

What we’ve done with them in Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor is address a problem which was believed to be the root cause for their decline in the area. Studies that have been done in the area have stated that the overall size and age of terrapins has decreased over time. Another documented the total road mortality rate at 70% of individuals that crossed the road (the actual rate in a more recent study was around 30%, but that’s still high and having an impact). Either way, each year many terrapins are being injured and killed by motor vehicles.

Each year we recruit volunteer “Terrapin Stewards” to help patrol area roads. This hardy and extremely dedicated group of volunteers work tirelessly to prevent terrapins from becoming road kill and also collect valuable data on their annual migration to find suitable nesting areas. On May 12th at 6:00pm we are hosting a short training session for anyone interested in volunteering this year. Attendees will also learn more about all of the work that we’ve done over the past 5 years.

Terrapin Week: Viewing Terrapins!

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

How to See Terrapins in the Wild in New Jersey

This story marks the third of five blog stories spotlighting New Jersey’s Diamondback Terrapin – and educating people on the research and efforts being done to protect these fascinating reptiles!

Part 1, Monday, was an introduction into the world of the Diamondback Terrapin. Part 2, Tuesday, featured CWF’s research efforts to protect the terrapins. Part 3, today’s blog post, will look at great places to view these beautiful turtles. Part 4, Thursday, will highlight some important ways you can help protect the Diamondback Terrapins. Part 5, Friday, will showcase some other important regional research being done by our partners.

 

by Ben Wurst

During full and new moon cycles females terrapins are hard NOT to see on Great Bay Blvd. in Little Egg Harbor, NJ.

During full and new moon cycles females terrapins are hard NOT to see on Great Bay Blvd. in Little Egg Harbor, NJ.

During their nesting season, Northern diamondback terrapins are usually pretty easy to spot along the coast of New Jersey, and throughout their range. They are beautiful turtles with very unique coloration.

Individuals vary in coloration, but in general, their upper shell, or carapace, is dark with a diamond shaped pattern on it. Their lower shell, or plastron, is a light yellow/green color. Their skin is a grey color with black spots that vary highly between individuals. Almost all have a light upper mandible.

From May through July, spotting a terrapin is pretty easy!

Females leave the protection of the coastal waterways to find suitable nest sites to lay eggs. They seek areas with sandy soil, like dunes, parking lots and road shoulders. When our barrier islands were developed, roads were created to access those islands.

The creation of these roads also increased the amount of available nest sites for terrapins. But the development itself actually decreased the amount of suitable nesting habitat for them overall. Much of our coast is now bulkheaded.

Bulkheading restricts the natural movement of terrapins and limits their ability to find suitable nest sites. So, now they must take what they can get: roadsides. Nesting on the edges of roads is a perilous journey for terrapins. The vehicles that travel on those coastal roads may have careless drivers behind the wheel.

Terrapins may be found in many different places along the coast, especially roads that criss-cross saltmarsh. Use extreme caution in trying to spot terrapins on active roads used by vehicles – not only to avoid driving over terrapins, but for your own safety and that of other drivers or pedestrians.

Some widely used locations include Avalon Boulevard and other west-east highways connecting the mainland with barrier islands and peninsulas. Many coastal areas in Cape May also feature high numbers of terrapins, while Monmouth County, Ocean County, and Meadowlands coastal regions feature plenty of terrapins as well.

However, one of the best places to view terrapins during their nesting season is inside the 5,000+ acre Great Bay Blvd. Wildlife Management Area, Little Egg Harbor, NJ. The WMA is located along the coast and is accessible by motor vehicle from the 5 mile long road that ends at the Rutgers Marine Field Station. The road was originally planned to connect the mainland with Atlantic City in the early 1900s. Luckily that plan fell through and the last bridge was never built (road is also called 7 Bridges Road, after the 7th bridge that was never built). There is plenty to see and do out on GBB, at all times of the year. A wide variety of wildlife can be observed from the road, including ospreys, terns, oystercatchers, herons, egrets, and shorebirds. Lots of outdoor recreation opportunites await as well, including crabbing, fishing, and kayaking. There are boat ramps along the road, and all the owners of the local marinas are very nice, including Capt. Mike’s, Rand’s Boats, and Cape Horn Marina.

A nesting terrapin.

A nesting terrapin.

Viewing terrapins:

Terrapins can be timid if approached, especially when nesting. Please keep your distance when near a nesting female. You wouldn’t want to cause a female to abandon laying eggs in a nest cavity! If she is unable to cover up her eggs with soil then they might become an easy meal for a gull or crow… Watching them nest is fun to watch as they excavate down and lay 8-12 eggs.

If you see one on the road and there is no traffic, slow down or stop and let it cross. If there is traffic coming, stop your vehicle, put on your hazard lights and carefully get out and move the terrapin in the direction it is heading. Terrapins can bite, so be careful and pick it up from the side of it’s shell (called the bridge). Use 1-2 hands to ensure you have a good grip. Sometimes they use their legs to try and get you to let go! Put it on the soft shoulder to be out of harms way. If you have a GPS or a smartphone, record the location and submit us a sighting via our online terrapin sighting form. Data collected from the form will help guide future conservation efforts for them in NJ.

Other great viewing areas:
  • Gateway National Recreation Area – Sandy Hook Unit
  • Island Beach State Park
  • Edwin B. Forsythe NWR – Oceanville
  • Wetlands Institute – Stone Harbor
  • Reeds Beach
  • Fortescue Beach

Ben Wurst is a wildlife biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

A break in the weather

Friday, February 21st, 2014
Great Bay Blvd. Osprey Platform Install

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

We took advantage of the break in cold/wet weather along the southeast coast of New Jersey and installed a new nesting platform for ospreys this week. The new platform was installed for a pair that previously nested on sensitive equipment used by the Rutgers University Marine Field Station on Great Bay Blvd. in Little Egg Harbor. The equipment was located on a short cluster of pilings near the boardwalk to the Station. It failed to produce young in 2013. More than likely it was predated by raccoon, the main ground predator of osprey young.

A large number of volunteers showed up to help out. The actual install was quite easy considering it could be accessed by the land via Great Bay Blvd. The platform was placed along a tidal creek so that biologists can easily access the nest for future surveys. Rutgers staff will install deterrents on the old nest so birds can’t nest there when they return in late March. You can see the location of the nest on Osprey Watch or drive out on GBB to see it in person.

Thank you to all the volunteers who came out to help!

 

Terrapin nesting season begins

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
Be Terrapin Aware this summer!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Last Thursday there was a flurry of activity throughout coastal New Jersey. It was one of the peak days of the beginning of the northern diamondback terrapin nesting season. I had scheduled myself to be off to work on projects around my house but ended up working for half the day on our Great Bay Terrapin Conservation Project. Female terrapins were everywhere! They were crossing all over Great Bay Blvd., a 5 mile long road that bisects pristine terrapin habitat. The shoulders of the road are suitable nesting habitat as well, so at times as many as 10-15 terrapins could be seen in one small section of the road. There were so many that one terrapin bumped right into another one on the shoulder of the road!! They were digging nests and laying eggs all over the place. It was certainly a rare sight. Luckily traffic was mild and  the weather was clear so there were little road kills. One female fell victim to a Little Egg Harbor Twp. mower who was mowing the edges of the road. This certainly wasn’t the best day to mow the shoulders! Before more terrapins could be killed we contacted LEHT public works and they called off their mower until further notice. On a side note, we have asked the township and the environmental commission to adopt a delayed mowed regime in the past and unfortunately one terrapin died because of this. I even emailed the public works director early last week about nesting activity picking up and I asked for him to please let me know when they were planning to mow so we could have someone walk in front of the mower to be sure no terrapins were hit. On the positive side, we were able to salvage 7 eggs from the terrapin, and they were successfully placed in a hatchery in Loveladies on LBI. We have our fingers crossed that they’ll hatch later this summer!

Finally, we have had more of a presence on Great Bay Blvd this year with the assistance of our new intern, Kristin Ryerson. She is collecting data (size, age, weight, and other data) on terrapins that she encounters while conducting road patrols on Great Bay Blvd. We’ll be using this data to compare it to some collected in Barnegat Bay and past studies that were conducted on the road. Her position is a volunteer position so I really appreciate all of her help so far! We also have volunteers who are acting as “Terrapin Stewards” where they also conduct road patrols to collect sightings of terrapins, educate visitors to the road about terrapins, and they also make sure terrapins safely cross the road. Without their help this project would not be successful!

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