Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘great bay terrapin project’

Build it and they will come

Saturday, February 5th, 2022

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

An adult female terrapin treks across our Turtle Garden in Little Egg Harbor, NJ. June 2021. photo by Ben Wurst

As with many of our conservation projects, they are centered around compassion for a species in need. One of which is the northern diamondback terrapin: a coast hugging turtle who inhabits salt marsh habitat from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras. In New Jersey they range from the Meadowlands south along the coast and in the Delaware Bay. Terrapins are known to have a very small home ranges and some may inhabit the same small creek for their entire lives. During summer months, females leave the protection of their salt marsh habitat to seek out sandy nest sites above the high tide line. Many times, they encounter a roadway and the results can be deadly.

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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.

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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. 

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Diamondback Terrapins off Game List

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

UNDER-SERVED SPECIES RECEIVES RECOGNITION IN NEW JERSEY

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

References: 
Szerlag, S., and S. P. McRobert. 2006. Road occurrence and mortality of the northern diamondback terrapin. Applied Herpetology 3:27-37.