Conserve Wildlife Blog

New Terrapin Garden Grows in Little Egg Harbor

July 20th, 2020

By Pat Johnson

Two year old terrapin. we found on the road shoulder.

CWF Habitat Manager Ben Wurst is known first and foremost for his work with New Jersey’s resident Osprey population. The job of a habitat manager doesn’t stop with ospreys, however. Ben’s work creating gardens for Diamondback Terrapins to safely nest in was recently the spotlight of an article by Pat Johnson of The Sand Paper.

Check out the excerpt below and read more on!

Like tiny air raid shelters, protective cages sheltering the terrapin nests along Great Bay Boulevard in Little Egg Harbor keep them safe from predators, among them crows and gulls from the air and foxes and raccoons on the ground. The Great Bay Boulevard Terrapin Habitat Project site, commonly called the terrapin garden by its founder, Ben Wurst, habitat project manager for the Conservation Foundation of New Jersey, already has at least 50 nests on its sandy beach next to the salt marsh.

Many of the Northern diamondback terrapins find it by themselves, but most are shifted from the roadside to the protected area and readily make their nests there. There are also nests made for eggs that have been harvested from road-kill terrapins – a sight that is still all too frequent, noted Wurst, despite the number of signs imploring motorists to be aware.

“Yesterday I was helping one cross the road and I found one mashed; I still can’t believe they are getting hit.”

It’s not just a problem on the 5-mile-long road that runs through about 5,500 acres of salt marsh. Wurst has also received several clutches of eggs harvested from dead terrapins by staff at the Stafford Veterinary Hospital in Manahawkin.

The terrapin garden was an idea proposed by Wurst a number of years ago but had to wait for funding from the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection’s compliance program. The compliance program is a mitigation program for when a company violates one of the DEP rules and must make restitution, but not always on the same spot where the violation occurred. In this case, Forked River Power wanted to fund the project, said Wurst, and “fell in love with the idea of creating habitat for nesting terrapins.”

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Learn more about CWF’s Great Bay Terrapin Project here!

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