Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘road’

Helping Turtles Off Roads

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
ROADS ARE DANGEROUS CROSSINGS FOR SLOW-MOVING TURTLES

by Kathleen Wadiak, CWF Intern

New Jersey is home to a number of turtle species, and this time of year, it is not uncommon to see some of them crossing the road. Slow movers on land, they are not well equipped to avoid the dangers of a busy roadway. If you come across a turtle on one of your streets, what should you do?

An eastern box turtle. Photo by Ben Wurst.

An eastern box turtle. Photo by Ben Wurst.

First of all, it is important to think of your own safety in addition to the turtle’s. Be sure to pull completely over to the side of the road and to put on your hazard lights. Check for cars, and make sure that you are visible to oncoming traffic.

 

Snapping turtle. Photo by Kelly Triece.

Snapping turtle. Photo by Kelly Triece.

If you want to move a turtle across the road, there are a few things to keep in mind. To start, remember to never lift a turtle by its tail or limbs, as this can cause serious injury. With most turtles, it is best to pick them up on either side of their shell between the forelimbs and hind limbs. Even small ones may squirm and kick, so try to keep a firm hold and carry them low to the ground to avoid a dangerous drop!

 

If the turtle is large with a long tail and pointed head, it is likely a snapping turtle and should be met with some extra caution. Try using a blunt object to gently coax it to the roadside, and be careful to avoid touching it anywhere within range of its bite, which can reach as far back as the middle of its body! If you think you need to carry it, hold it with two hands on the shell behind its hind legs, on either side of the tail.

 

Terrapin X-ING sign along Great Bay Blvd. Photo courtesy of Ben Wurst.

Terrapin X-ING sign along Great Bay Blvd. Photo courtesy of Ben Wurst.

Before you handle a turtle, notice which direction it’s facing. Move it to that side of the street, as it is likely determined to head to a certain site, and will end up in the road again if it is moved away from its goal. This is an especially important point with the many threatened and endangered turtle species in our state. Helping turtles in trouble across a roadway and leaving them to enjoy their natural environment is a great way to ensure that there will be more wild turtles to appreciate for years to come!


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Photo from the Field

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Slow down, don’t tailgate and help a terrapin cross safely!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Female terrapins often cross roads to find suitable nest sites along the Jersey Shore. © Ben Wurst

Female terrapins often cross roads to find suitable nest sites along the Jersey Shore. © Ben Wurst

This week the annual nesting season of northern diamondback terrapins began. Females leave protection of our coastal estuaries to seek out suitable nest sites, course gravel and sand, which is often along roadsides. These individuals often cross roads to get to these nest sites. Please be courteous of terrapins and slow down, leave a greater following distance, and help a terrapin cross when you see one on the road.

 

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!

The tragic toll of roads

Monday, May 21st, 2012
Be aware while driving this summer!

By Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Roads are a necessary component to human survival. Since New Jersey is such a densely populated state we have a lot of them. Many of them have a negative effect on wildlife. One of these impacts is how they block or impede the natural migration of amphibians and reptiles as they search for mates or expand their territories.

During the summer I am always a little more aware while driving. In the next week many terrapins will begin to emerge from coastal waters to find nest sites. Box turtles and other freshwater turtles are seeking mates and nest sites. Snakes often bask in roadways to help them thermoregulate. Last week while I was driving down one road in the Pinelands I saw two cars pass me in the opposite lane. After they sped by, on the shoulder, I noticed something odd but I knew exactly what it was. A tail was flinging crazily in the air. I thought it was a snake but was’t 100% sure so I stopped and turned around to check it out. It turns out it was a snake and it was an endangered timber rattlesnake. This is only the second timber rattler that I’ve ever seen in the wild and they are quite a rare occurrence. It was still alive but severely injured. I pulled it off the road before another car hit it. I called Dave Golden a zoologist with NJ Fish & Wildlife and took the snake home with hopes that it would survive long enough to be transferred to the Cape May County Zoo. Unfortunately, it died an hour after I got home. As you travel our many roads this summer please be aware of your surroundings and watch out for any snakes or turtles that enter the roadway.

A timber rattlesnake shortly after being hit by car on a road in the New Jersey Pinelands. © Ben Wurst

Timber rattlesnakes are a very docile snake, however they are still venomous and you can die if bitten. If you encounter a rattlesnake do not attempt to pick it up!!! I was extremely cautious of this snake even though it was injured. Please call 1-877-WARN-DEP immediately if you encounter a timber rattlesnake that is near your home and/or if you or it are in any kind of danger. Record information about your sighting and report it to the Endangered & Nongame Species Program here.

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