Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘little egg harbor’

Photo from the field

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
Volunteers provide safe nest site for ospreys

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Volunteers who helped to install the first platform for ospreys in 2014! © Ben Wurst

Volunteers who helped to install the first platform for ospreys in 2014! © Ben Wurst

Today nine volunteers assisted with the installation of this nesting platform inside Great Bay Blvd. Wildlife Management Area. The platform was built during last year’s Sandy relief effort and was several “extra” platforms that were built using donated materials. It’s being used to replace an existing nest that is too close to disturbance and prone to predation. The new platform is far from disturbance, gives them protection from predators, but is close enough to the road for wildlife photographers and birders to observe them at a safe distance. You can report nesting activity for this new nest platform on Osprey Watch.

What did you do this summer?

Thursday, September 13th, 2012
Experience gained; many terrapins saved!

by Kristin Ryerson, CWF Terrapin Project Intern

Kristin prepares to release the injured terrapin her Dad found on Rt. 72. Photo courtesy Kristin Ryerson

“What did you do this summer?” was a question I was frequently asked by family, friends and classmates when I recently returned to college this fall. Well, where to begin! Ben Wurst, CWF’s Habitat Program Manager, set a goal this summer to lower the number of road killed Northern Diamondback Terrapins on Great Bay Boulevard in Tuckerton, NJ. In previous studies, 50 terrapins could be killed in one nesting season—the main cause? People. Careless drivers who are either speeding or simply oblivious to the many yellow signs warning them of crossing nesting terrapins and the fact that they are in the middle of an extremely vital wildlife refuge. So, this summer, I had the privilege of being the Great Bay Terrapin Project’s Intern, and my job was to help save nesting terrapins crossing the road and to take valuable data on those I saw. Ben gave me some equipment and the knowledge I would need when working on the road. Through road patrols, educating the public, maintaining the previously installed barrier fencing, painting road signs and data collection, I learned more than I had imagined and had an amazing experience.


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!

Volunteers needed to help install barrier fence

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
Protecting Terrapins through conservation along Great Bay Blvd.

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Great Bay Blvd. in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. © Ben Wurst

Northern Diamondback Terrapins are native to New Jersey and inhabit the many miles of coastal salt marshes along the Atlantic Coast and Delaware Bay. Terrapins were once very common and were used as a main food source of protein by Native Americans and then European settlers. In the early 1900’s it was hunted so extensively that it almost faced extinction. Luckily, during the 1920’s, use of terrapins for food dropped in popularity. This allowed the population to slightly recover and avoid extinction. However, several major threats still threaten their survival. Habitat loss, mortality from being drowned in crab traps, and road mortality all pose major threats to the health of the population. Each year thousands of terrapins are killed by motor vehicles throughout their range and here in New Jersey, Great Bay Boulevard is no exception.

Great Bay Boulevard or Seven Bridges Road extends approximately 5 miles into estuarine emergent wetlands and northern diamondback terrapin nesting habitat. The boulevard is surrounded by over 5,500 acres of protected coastal habitat (Great Bay Boulevard Wildlife Management Area – Managed by NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife), a relatively unspoiled, estuarine ecosystem. This road, at times, has high a volume of traffic, especially on weekends when boaters and outdoorsmen travel on the road to get to and from one of the several active marinas along the road. Currently during May-August there is no protection to terrapins when they cross Great Bay Blvd. from vehicle traffic. Most terrapins who cross the road are adult females who are laden with eggs and are looking for a suitable nesting site. These females lay their eggs in a sand/gravel mixture where it is easy for them to dig and cover their eggs, like sandy beaches and in scrub-shrub habitat along road edges. Many female terrapins are inadvertently hit-by-car and injured or killed by speeding motorists or people unaware of the summer nesting habits of the terrapin. This high mortality rate has caused the local population to decline and it has also caused the average size of adults to drop significantly over the past 20 years.

How you can help:

Volunteers are needed to help install ~ 4,000 ft. of barrier fencing along Great Bay Blvd to help reduce the amount of road kills. Sambol construction will be helping us by trenching a ditch for us to place the fence in. Volunteers will help lay out fence, install metal posts, hang fence, and back fill trenches.

  • Please pack a lunch and bring plenty of water, sunblock, and bug spray.
  • We are starting work on Friday at 8am, but if we don’t finish, we’ll wrap up work on Saturday morning.
  • We will meet after the first bridge; click here for a Google Map link. You can park here and then we can car pool to the section of the road where the fence will be installed.
  • Please register if you plan to attend by emailing Ben Wurst.

Check out our project page on Facebook and become a fan today!

Help protect terrapins in southern Ocean County!

Monday, May 2nd, 2011
Volunteers needed to help protect terrapins in southern Barnegat Bay

By Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

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

Last year Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ started a new project that was focused on reducing the amount of terrapins that were killed by motor vehicles. The project began because of one individual terrapin that I encountered on Great Bay Blvd in 2009. I observed the female terrapin as she walked along the edge of the Blvd. I saw this as being odd. Typically they cross the road and often at a speedy pace (probably because they know the apparent danger from crossing roads). I stopped and saw that she had an injury to her lower mandible, probably from a motor vehicle. I knew that she needed help.

Terrapins face a variety of threats in their environment. An untold number are trapped in crab traps that are not fitted with Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs), some are hit by speeding boats and jet skis, and many more are injured or killed while attempting to cross roads. Along Great Bay Blvd. in Little Egg Harbor several studies have documented the amount of live and dead individuals on the road.

As soil and coastal waters begin to warm, terrapins begin to become active again. In late April/early May hatchlings begin to emerge from nest cavities where they overwintered. Adults also begin to become active, but mostly remain in the waters where they live until June when females emerge to lay eggs in nests they dig on land.

The penninsula that surrounds Great Bay Blvd. is pristine habitat for terrapins in southern Barnegat Bay.

Last year we raised enough funding to develop and print an educational brochure, purchase and install “Terrapin X-ING” signs, and install 4,000 feet of barrier fencing. The fencing was placed along the first stretch of road where the highest mortality rates were recorded. The fence proved to be effective at reducing road kills and increasing awareness of terrapins. The fence was removed in late 2010. This year it will be installed again along the same portion of road with help from a local construction company, Sambol Construction. After this season, we hope to keep the fence up year-round and hope to fence the whole first section of the road (and possibly more).

This year to help reduce the amount of terrapins that are hit by motor vehicles, we are recruiting volunteers to act as “Terrapin Stewards.” Stewards will be asked to routinely drive, walk, or bike down Great Bay Blvd. during the summer months from June to mid-July (especially on weekends, holidays and when there is a full or new moon). Volunteers will educate the public about terrapins, their threats in the environment, and our project. Volunteers will also help terrapins safely cross roads and help record locations of live or dead animals. No more than 10 volunteers will be recruited this year.

Our Message to visitors:

The habitat that surrounds Great Bay Boulevard is very important to the reproduction of northern diamondback terrapins, a species in decline in New Jersey. Female terrapins often nest along the soft shoulders of roadways. Sometimes they enter the roadway to reach these suitable nesting areas where they lay their eggs. Research has shown that dozens of female terrapins are killed by motor vehicles each year along Great Bay Boulevard. Please help conserve terrapins by driving carefully while traveling along the road.

If you’d like to participate you are required to attend a training session on May 3rd @ 6pm at the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve. Volunteers will fill out paperwork and learn more about terrapins and our project. You must register to attend this training/information session.