Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘jersey shore’

ABC Action News: Horseshoe crabs play key role in race for COVID-19 vaccine

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

by Walter Perez

Horseshoe crab blood is hypersensitive to dangerous bacteria that can develop in injectable medicines and vaccines.

In the race for a vaccine for COVID-19, horseshoe crabs – a New Jersey coastal fixture both now and eons ago in the days before the dinosaurs – may play a vital role.

This video story by ABC Action News features CWF Executive Director David Wheeler and top shorebird scientist Dr. Larry Niles in telling this science fiction-like tale.

Watch the video &

Public Participation Key to Protect Terrapins on Roads

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

Local residents and visitors in coastal areas urged to drive carefully during summer months.

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

To cross or not to cross? Roads are barriers to wildlife, like this adult female northern diamondback terrapin.

This year marks nine years since we began efforts to document and reduce roadkills of N. diamondback terrapins in S. Ocean and N. Atlantic Counties within the Barnegat and Great Bay Watersheds. Our Great Bay Terrapin Project was centered around Great Bay Blvd. or Seven Bridges Road, a long saltmarsh access road where many adult female terrapins enter the roadway while seeking nest sites.


Help Ensure Ospreys Have a Future in New Jersey

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

ACTION ALERT: Support ecological management of the most valuable public resource for our coastal ecosystem and economy

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Menhaden is a common food source for ospreys during their nesting season in New Jersey. Photo by Northside Jim.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is accepting public comment on the establishment of ecological management of Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), which is a keystone species. Basically, a keystone species is one that plays a large role in the ecosystem where it lives. If a keystone species is lost then the ecosystem would dramatically change or cease to function, causing widespread effects to other species that benefit. In New Jersey, ospreys have largely benefited from a healthy menhaden population as we’ve had relatively high reproductive rates (more than double what’s needed to sustain population) over the past decade. From 2006 to 2016, the population has grown by 30% and above the pre-DDT, historic milestone of over 500 nesting pairs. Around 82% of the state population of ospreys nests along the Atlantic Coast and we observe menhaden at a huge number of nests during our mid-summer surveys. If menhaden numbers drop, then we will likely see osprey numbers follow suite, as reproductive rates will decline, as they are in the Chesapeake Bay.


Living with ospreys in New Jersey

Monday, May 2nd, 2016
New document provides guidance to homeowners and landowners with osprey nest issues and focuses on the use of UAVs around active nests

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

As the osprey population grows, work to identify, protect and remedy problem nests is crucial to their long term survival. Photo by Kevin Knutsen

An osprey prepares to land on its nest on a chimney along the Jersey Shore. Work to identify, protect and remedy problem nests is crucial to their long term survival. Photo by Kevin Knutsen.

In New Jersey, we’ve seen the osprey population grow to an estimated 600 nesting pairs in 2015. As the population continues to grow, work to identify, protect, and remedy problem nests is crucial for their long term survival. Each year many new young adults return to their natal areas to find suitable areas to construct nests. Ospreys have a high level of site fidelity and usually return to the same areas where they originated (females do tend to wander more). A suitable nest site for an osprey is a high structure near water, usually away from human disturbance. However, ospreys can become more tolerant of disturbance if it can be expected and is not too close to their nest, especially for those birds that nest on tall structures.

Ospreys build large nests which can weight up to 200 lbs. They use sticks, grass, muck, seaweed, eelgrass, reeds, and often trash to build up their nests.

Around 75% of the state population nests on man-made platforms that are designed specifically for them. The other 25% is a mixture of nests built on other man-made structures and a few natural nests. Yes, ospreys do still nest in trees! But, trees that are suitable for them are few and far between. A suitable tree for an osprey is a standing dead tree (snag) or a tree with a top that has broken off. As the population continues to grow and there are fewer nest sites available on platforms and few suitable trees, more nests are being built on man-made structures where problems can arise. Ospreys are being pushed to nest in areas that are not always ideal, like on utility poles, stadium lights, emergency sirens, communication towers, boat lifts, docks, and even houses. Nests on utility poles can cause power outages and sometimes the nest might catch on fire or an adult can be electrocuted. Nests on houses, docks and boat lifts often limit use of such structures unless dealt with properly, but active nests cannot be removed without consulting with experts. 

Osprey builds nest on chimney. Photo by Kevin Knutsen.

Osprey builds nest on chimney. Photo by Kevin Knutsen.

In partnership with NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, we developed a new guidance document to help address problem nests. “Living with Ospreys in New Jersey: A guide for the removal, relocation, and placement of osprey nests” addresses the laws protecting ospreys, who are protected both federally under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and statewide under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1973. Both of these laws protect the nest, adults and the contents of the nest, eggs and young. It also gives guidance on what actions can be taken to access, remove, or relocate an active or inactive osprey nest on any man-made structure, including communication towers. Also included are directions on how to build and install an osprey nesting platform.

Lastly, it also provides some clear guidance on the use of UAVs near active osprey nests. UAV pilots must follow all FAA guidelines and not fly within 1,000 feet of any active osprey nest. To an osprey, a UAV looks like a potential predator. Ospreys will defend their nests and attack any potential predator at nest sites. Simply flying near a nest can add stress to birds and cause adults to fly off nests where their young are vulnerable to predation. Any pilot who flies within this area and pursues or harms an osprey or its young is in direct violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. We ask that all UAV pilots use caution to protect the safety of our ospreys and other birds.

Be Terrapin Aware!

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015
Public urged to use caution while driving in shore areas this summer

By: Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager and Stephanie Egger, Wildlife Biologist

A adult female northern diamondback terrapin searches for a suitable nest site along Great Bay Blvd. Photo by Ben Wurst

An adult female northern diamondback terrapin searches for a suitable nest site along Great Bay Blvd. Photo by Ben Wurst

Each year in late May and early June the annual nesting season for northern diamondback terrapins begins. This unique species of turtle is the only one to inhabit our coastal estuaries year round. They live exclusively in brackish water.

During this time of year, adult females emerge from the protection of their aquatic habitat to find suitable areas to lay eggs. They seek nesting areas with a sandy gravel type substrate that’s above the high tide line.

Throughout their range along the coast, terrapins face a variety of threats to their survival. Terrapin nesting habitat has been lost due to commercial and residential development, shoreline hardening and flooding which poses a greater threat to these limited nesting areas. Loss of terrapin nesting habitat along marsh systems put terrapins at greater risk of mortality as a result of increased time searching for adequate nesting areas (Winters 2013). Terrapins will utilize roadsides for nesting which increases the threat of being hit by motor vehicles. Roads are essential to our daily life but they often are barriers to wildlife, especially small critters like terrapins. Studies have shown that adult females have become less abundant and smaller from road mortality. (Avissar, 2006).

You can help terrapins several ways during the nesting season. Driving more cautiously from now until mid-July is a simple way to be more aware of terrapins crossing the roads. Nesting peaks during the full and new moon cycles and they’re more active during the high tide (less distance to travel on land to nest sites). We ask drivers in coastal areas to “Be Terrapin Aware” while driving in these areas. If you find a terrapin crossing the road use these steps to help it cross safely:

  • Stay safe. Never put yourself at risk! Make sure that you do not endanger yourself, or others, by walking into traffic.
  • When safe to do so, pull your car over and onto the shoulder, if possible. Turn on your hazard signals.
  • When safe to enter the roadway, approach the turtle and pick it up by grabbing its shell with both hands between its front and hind legs. HOLD ON – Terrapins have strong legs!
  • It is important that you move the turtle in the direction that it is heading. They are not always headed directly towards water. They will turn around if you put them in the wrong direction, so work with their instincts.
  • Place the terrapin off the road onto the soft shoulder (dirt or grass).
  • If you have a GPS or a smartphone then record your location and submit your sighting on our website.
  • Please do not move a terrapin long distances to “somewhere safe!” They have very small home ranges and moving them will only hurt them.

Rescuing a live terrapin (or any other turtle) from the road is a rewarding experience. It’s a great way to engage future generations in caring for our terrapins.

You can also help terrapins during the nesting season by supporting our new “Turtle Gardens” project. CWF, in partnership with the Marine Academy of Technology of Environmental Sciencewill develop and implement an educational initiative to promote terrapin nesting habitat enhancement. These “Turtle Gardens” will raise awareness of the benefit of living shorelines to terrapins and other coastal wildlife, as it relates to sea level rise and coastal flooding within the Barnegat Bay Watershed. Turtle Gardens for terrapins are patches of sandy nesting habitat above the high water line that are less susceptible to flooding. They also reduce the risk of road mortality. We will be having informational training sessions for those that would like to volunteer for monitoring Turtle Gardens or have property that would support a Turtle Garden. Information on these sessions will be announced in mid-June.

In addition, we will also be looking for terrapin sighting information with Project Terrapin in Berkeley and Lacey Townships in Ocean County as part of an initiative to fill in data gaps for this species on the mainland. If you see terrapins in these locations please report your sightings online.

Learn more:


Ben Wurst is the Habitat Program Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and Stephanie Egger is a Wildlife Biologist with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.