It's terrapin nesting season at the Jersey shore: Here's how you can help

Trish Hartman Image
Tuesday, June 18, 2024
It's terrapin nesting season at the shore: Here's how you can help
It's terrapin nesting season at the Jersey shore: Here's how you can help

MIDDLE TWP., New Jersey (WPVI) -- For researchers at the Wetlands Institute in South Jersey, the first terrapin of the day was found just off Stone Harbor Boulevard heading towards the road.

The female was looking for a place to lay her eggs, along with thousands of others up and down the Jersey shore.

Staff made sure to pick up the terrapin (by the back of the shell) and carry her across the road, hoping she'd find a safe place to nest.

To find higher ground to nest, many times it means terrapins have to cross the road.

"For terrapins, it's obviously very unfortunate that it coincides with our highest levels of traffic in the area," said research scientist Brian Williamson.

He says it's been a very active season so far, and that not all turtles are so lucky.

Williamson showed us one terrapin that was hit by a car Monday, leaving her shell cracked.

But her prognosis is good.

A vet will check her out and she'll recover at a wildlife rehabilitation center.

But for those terrapins that don't make it, oftentimes their eggs can still be harvested.

The Institute, which is located just outside of Stone Harbor, is incubating nearly 300 eggs right now.

The baby turtles that hatch are called "head starters." Local schools care for them, and when they're ready, they'll be released back into the wild.

But the goal is to allow the terrapins to cross the road safely so they can lay their eggs in a nest.

Folks at the Institute hope drivers will keep an eye out.

"You can pull over to the side of the road. Wait until you have a moment to help her in the direction she's headed," said Williamson, "not in the direction she came. Because the turtle will simply turn around and come right back."

Throughout the summer, researchers will record data and release them back into the wild, trying to save a vital piece of the environment.

"They're a really important predator in salt marsh ecosystems," said Williamson.

"It's literally my favorite part of the day," said Logan Stewart, a terrapin intern at the Institute from the University of Delaware. "I know when I go out into the world and save a turtle off the road, I actually made a difference and I helped it."