Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘great bay terrapin project’

Photo From The Field

Saturday, April 4th, 2020

Terrapin hatchlings and 3000 tons of sand.

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

If lucky, I might cross paths with this terrapin in another decade (if it’s a female) and she overcomes the odds and returns to nest here as an adult.

While out inspecting our newly created terrapin habitat enhancement site in Little Egg Harbor, I found several terrapin hatchlings who were traversing the 36″ high pile of sand. I was expecting to see some hatchlings, since many arise from the protection of nest cavities on warm spring days in April, but not on top of our enhancement site. The moment I spotted one of these half dollar sized turtles, I looked into the distance and saw another.


Giving Back to Great Bay Terrapins

Monday, November 25th, 2019

CWF partners with NJ Fish & Wildlife to enhance habitat for terrapins in Little Egg Harbor

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

A female terrapin nesting along Great Bay Blvd.

Northern diamondback terrapins are a coast hugging, saltmarsh living, shellfish eating, aquatic turtle. Their ultimate survival depends on the ability of adult females to safely access nesting areas during summer months. Since 2010 CWF has worked to document and reduce roadkills of terrapins on roads in southern Ocean and northern Atlantic Counties. 


Diamondback Terrapins off Game List

Thursday, July 28th, 2016


by Corrine Henn, Assistant Communications Manager

Last week on July 15th, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law effectively making it illegal to hunt or harvest diamond terrapin, a species native to New Jersey’s coastal salt marshes. Now legally considered a non-game indigenous species, the terrapin will be subject to all laws and regulations as stated in the Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act.




For many, this news is long time coming. Since 2009, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has worked diligently alongside our partners to conserve, research and raise awareness for the plight of the diamond terrapin. The Great Bay Terrapin Project aims to reduce the number of deaths and simultaneously educated the public on the importance of conserving this vital species.


Out of all the threats the terrapin face, including habitat loss, ghost crab traps, and accidental deaths, harvesting of the terrapin has increased in a number of areas around the state as the demand for terrapin (as pets) and terrapin meat grows in overseas markets.


Up until this new legislation, the diamondback terrapin could be legally harvested in New Jersey during the permitted hunting season. Unfortunately, there has never been any formal regulation in place to keep track of just how many were being taken from the wild. All that was required was that the terrapin be caught by hand. However, an incident in 2014 that resulted in the harvesting of near 3,500 terrapins only reaffirmed that something more needed to be done.



For the past two years, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) commissioner Bob Martin signed an administrative order ending the harvesting season early. The culmination of these incidents, along with years of monitoring and studying the terrapin and the ongoing threats they face supported the concerns brought forward in the legislation to Governor Chris Christie.


We have never been able to fully grasp the status of the terrapin population here in New Jersey, but this legislation opens up new opportunities and renewed hope, to those of us not only at CWF but our partners around the state. We hope that this new law will deter those who wish to harvest the terrapin illegally, and that those who do and are caught will be prosecuted.


In the meantime, there are still many ways you can help in protecting this beautiful and unique species.



Learn More:

Reduce the speed limit on Great Bay Blvd.

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
Ask Little Egg Harbor to help us protect terrapins!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

This female northern diamondback terrapin was not able to lay her clutch of eggs after being killed by a motor vehicle on Great Bay Blvd. © Ben Wurst

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.


Volunteers needed to help install barrier fence

Wednesday, 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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