Conserve Wildlife Blog

Photo From The Field

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.

I instantly thought of how challenging their lives are — to navigate the human dominated landscape which continues to change while managing to survive with no parental care — it’s no wonder that only 1-3% survive to adulthood. This is why we created this site — to provide northern diamondback terrapins with more suitable habitat to lay eggs and produce young — since their nesting habitat is declining from the hardening of shorelines and sea level rise.

Over the past several months Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has worked with our partners at NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife to enhance a 2 acre site inside Great Bay Blvd. WMA for terrapins to nest. Three thousand tons of sand was deposited and spread inside coir logs (coconut fiber logs), which help stabilize the sand. Weather (wind and rain) has played an important role in spreading the sand over the coir logs, to create a more natural slope and contours. Last week 300+ native plants (seaside goldenrod, beach grass, and beach plums) were planted to stabilize the sand while providing habitat for terrapin hatchlings to hide this spring. Later this year the seaside goldenrod will provide nectar for migratory monarch butterflies.

This newly created habitat is already providing shelter for terrapins, and in a couple months, adults will emerge from the brackish water to nest here. If you find a terrapin hatchling this spring, please place it in vegetation near brackish water. Do not move them long distances and never take them home and keep as a pet.

A portion of the funding for this project is being supplied by Forked River Power LLC through a NJDEP Supplemental Environmental Project which CWF obtained this year. You can read our proposed project here.

Note:For the health and safety of our staff and the communities where we work, CWF is only performing essential wildlife monitoring and conservation duties. While in the field, staff are practicing social distancing and following all state and CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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One Response to “Photo From The Field”

  1. Jim Merritt says:

    Nice job Ben and CWF!