Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘terrapin project’

New Terrapin Garden Grows in Little Egg Harbor

Monday, 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.


Celery Farm and Beyond: Rescuing a Few Baby Terrapins

Thursday, May 30th, 2019
Photo by Jim Wright

While out on a drive along Delaware Bay friend of Conserve Wildlife Foundation Jim Wright has an unplanned encounter with our biologist Larissa Smith and several baby terrapins.

On his blog Jim says “(Larissa) explained that these tiny terrapins cross this road every late May. We helped save four of the little turtles — including three that would have likely been crushed by a giant tractor-trailer headed for a marina.  Alas, we found a few crushed little guys on the way.”


Press of Atlantic City: Illegal turtle trade plagues South Jersey marshes

Friday, March 15th, 2019

Story by: Press of Atlantic City

N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife Photo

To the trained eye, it was clear Kevin Courts and Michael Riff were illegal terrapin harvesters.

The Hatboro, Pennsylvania, men, one shirtless, were parked next to a marsh off Sea Isle Boulevard last July, with six nets and a long pole leaning against their green truck, the state said. A conservation officer who approached them spotted a turtle crawling under the driver’s side seat and found a cooler packed with hatchlings.

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.

Photo from the Field

Friday, July 30th, 2010
Roads are barriers to wildlife

By Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

This year we started a new project to try and help reduce the amount of road kills of northern diamondback terrapins along Great Bay Blvd. in southern Ocean County. Great Bay Blvd. is a 5 mile long paved road that extends into the coastal saltmarsh. The road leads to the Rutgers Marine Field Station and the old Fish Factory on Seven Island. We were able to fence a small portion of the road, install three crossing signs along the road, and develop an educational brochure (that is available at marinas in the area).

Unfortunately, terrapins are still hit by motor vehicles along other portions of the road. This is inevitable. Fencing the whole road would almost be impossible and very time consuming to maintain. This fall and winter I am going to work with the town (Little Egg Harbor) and NJ Fish and Wildlife (who owns the land around the road) to come up with a plan to minimize road kills along the road. A viable option would be to install speed humps to reduce the speed of motorists along the road and for the town to post and enforce a reduced speed limit (25mph) along the road.

A northern diamondback terrapin pauses while crossing Great Bay Blvd. near Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. © Ben Wurst

We are committed to preserving this incredible species and would like to thank everyone who has helped fund this project.