Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Great Bay Blvd WMA’

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.


CWF In The News: Conserve Wildlife Foundation Reports Turtle Garden Success

Friday, September 18th, 2020

by Ethan Gilardi

A rehabilitated adult female northern diamondback terrapin that was released in late 2009 after being injured by a motor vehicle along Great Bay Blvd. © Ben Wurst

Northern Diamondback Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin terrapin) are a native species of New Jersey turtle, inhabiting the brackish waters of the state’s coastal salt marshes and estuaries. The survival of the species depends on the ability of female turtles to access safe nesting habitat every summer, a struggle for the species these days with roadways disconnecting large swaths of their habitat. To help give females a better chance of successfully reproducing, CWF partnered with New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife last year to create a half-acre “turtle garden” at a former marina within the Great Bay Wildlife Management Area.

CWF Habitat Manager Ben Wurst took Pat Johnson of to the site recently to survey the success of this new turtle garden and walk through what it takes to save a species like the diamondback terrapin.

Check out the except below!

It’s diamondback terrapin hatching season in the newest turtle garden established by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey in the Great Bay Wildlife Management Area. Project Manager Ben Wurst has been monitoring the 50 or so nests that were created this spring to protect them from predators so the hatchlings could have a fighting chance of survival.


Photo from the Field

Thursday, October 5th, 2017
The Lucky 8: Tiny terrapin hatchlings rescued!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

A clutch of eight tiny terrapin hatchlings found beneath one of our X-ING signs. photo by Ben Wurst

While removing our seasonal (better late than never!) terrapin X-ING signs on Great Bay Blvd. in Little Egg Harbor yesterday, we stumbled upon some tiny northern diamondback terrapin hatchlings. These little guys were hiding or trapped under a very large (and heavy) X-ING sign made from old pallets that someone knocked over (I say guys because they hatched later in the season and it was a very cool August, but some could be girls). At first I didn’t see anything, but upon closer inspection I saw several hatchlings in the vegetation. One, two, three, four, five, six. Then I dug a little with my hand and found two more. The sign had been atop a nest. (more…)

Volunteers needed to help protect terrapins!

Friday, April 24th, 2015
Training Session scheduled for May 12th at 6pm in Tuckerton

A female terrapin pauses while crossing Great Bay Blvd in Little Egg Harbor, NJ.

A female terrapin pauses while crossing Great Bay Blvd in Little Egg Harbor, NJ.

We work hard to protect wildlife for future generations to enjoy. One of those species, who is largely an underserved species in New Jersey is the northern diamondback terrapin. Terrapins are so cool yet hardly noticed by many. They face a HUGE amount of threats. To list a few (from greatest to least): Poaching, drowning in crab traps, road mortality, predation (usually of eggs or young), and collisions with boats and boat props. That’s a long list of threats to the health of their population, which no one really knows how they are doing…

What we’ve done with them in Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor is address a problem which was believed to be the root cause for their decline in the area. Studies that have been done in the area have stated that the overall size and age of terrapins has decreased over time. Another documented the total road mortality rate at 70% of individuals that crossed the road (the actual rate in a more recent study was around 30%, but that’s still high and having an impact). Either way, each year many terrapins are being injured and killed by motor vehicles.

Each year we recruit volunteer “Terrapin Stewards” to help patrol area roads. This hardy and extremely dedicated group of volunteers work tirelessly to prevent terrapins from becoming road kill and also collect valuable data on their annual migration to find suitable nesting areas. On May 12th at 6:00pm we are hosting a short training session for anyone interested in volunteering this year. Attendees will also learn more about all of the work that we’ve done over the past 5 years.

Terrapin Week: Viewing Terrapins!

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

How to See Terrapins in the Wild in New Jersey

This story marks the third of five blog stories spotlighting New Jersey’s Diamondback Terrapin – and educating people on the research and efforts being done to protect these fascinating reptiles!

Part 1, Monday, was an introduction into the world of the Diamondback Terrapin. Part 2, Tuesday, featured CWF’s research efforts to protect the terrapins. Part 3, today’s blog post, will look at great places to view these beautiful turtles. Part 4, Thursday, will highlight some important ways you can help protect the Diamondback Terrapins. Part 5, Friday, will showcase some other important regional research being done by our partners.


by Ben Wurst

During full and new moon cycles females terrapins are hard NOT to see on Great Bay Blvd. in Little Egg Harbor, NJ.

During full and new moon cycles females terrapins are hard NOT to see on Great Bay Blvd. in Little Egg Harbor, NJ.

During their nesting season, Northern diamondback terrapins are usually pretty easy to spot along the coast of New Jersey, and throughout their range. They are beautiful turtles with very unique coloration.

Individuals vary in coloration, but in general, their upper shell, or carapace, is dark with a diamond shaped pattern on it. Their lower shell, or plastron, is a light yellow/green color. Their skin is a grey color with black spots that vary highly between individuals. Almost all have a light upper mandible.

From May through July, spotting a terrapin is pretty easy!

Females leave the protection of the coastal waterways to find suitable nest sites to lay eggs. They seek areas with sandy soil, like dunes, parking lots and road shoulders. When our barrier islands were developed, roads were created to access those islands.

The creation of these roads also increased the amount of available nest sites for terrapins. But the development itself actually decreased the amount of suitable nesting habitat for them overall. Much of our coast is now bulkheaded.

Bulkheading restricts the natural movement of terrapins and limits their ability to find suitable nest sites. So, now they must take what they can get: roadsides. Nesting on the edges of roads is a perilous journey for terrapins. The vehicles that travel on those coastal roads may have careless drivers behind the wheel.

Terrapins may be found in many different places along the coast, especially roads that criss-cross saltmarsh. Use extreme caution in trying to spot terrapins on active roads used by vehicles – not only to avoid driving over terrapins, but for your own safety and that of other drivers or pedestrians.

Some widely used locations include Avalon Boulevard and other west-east highways connecting the mainland with barrier islands and peninsulas. Many coastal areas in Cape May also feature high numbers of terrapins, while Monmouth County, Ocean County, and Meadowlands coastal regions feature plenty of terrapins as well.

However, one of the best places to view terrapins during their nesting season is inside the 5,000+ acre Great Bay Blvd. Wildlife Management Area, Little Egg Harbor, NJ. The WMA is located along the coast and is accessible by motor vehicle from the 5 mile long road that ends at the Rutgers Marine Field Station. The road was originally planned to connect the mainland with Atlantic City in the early 1900s. Luckily that plan fell through and the last bridge was never built (road is also called 7 Bridges Road, after the 7th bridge that was never built). There is plenty to see and do out on GBB, at all times of the year. A wide variety of wildlife can be observed from the road, including ospreys, terns, oystercatchers, herons, egrets, and shorebirds. Lots of outdoor recreation opportunites await as well, including crabbing, fishing, and kayaking. There are boat ramps along the road, and all the owners of the local marinas are very nice, including Capt. Mike’s, Rand’s Boats, and Cape Horn Marina.

A nesting terrapin.

A nesting terrapin.

Viewing terrapins:

Terrapins can be timid if approached, especially when nesting. Please keep your distance when near a nesting female. You wouldn’t want to cause a female to abandon laying eggs in a nest cavity! If she is unable to cover up her eggs with soil then they might become an easy meal for a gull or crow… Watching them nest is fun to watch as they excavate down and lay 8-12 eggs.

If you see one on the road and there is no traffic, slow down or stop and let it cross. If there is traffic coming, stop your vehicle, put on your hazard lights and carefully get out and move the terrapin in the direction it is heading. Terrapins can bite, so be careful and pick it up from the side of it’s shell (called the bridge). Use 1-2 hands to ensure you have a good grip. Sometimes they use their legs to try and get you to let go! Put it on the soft shoulder to be out of harms way. If you have a GPS or a smartphone, record the location and submit us a sighting via our online terrapin sighting form. Data collected from the form will help guide future conservation efforts for them in NJ.

Other great viewing areas:
  • Gateway National Recreation Area – Sandy Hook Unit
  • Island Beach State Park
  • Edwin B. Forsythe NWR – Oceanville
  • Wetlands Institute – Stone Harbor
  • Reeds Beach
  • Fortescue Beach

Ben Wurst is a wildlife biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.