By Molly Daly
STONE HARBOR, N.J., (CBS) — It’s nesting season for New Jersey’s native Diamondback Terrapins, which emerge from the salt marshes to lay their eggs on higher ground — which is often on the other side of the road.
KYW’s Molly Daly reports advocates are asking for your help in keeping the turtles safe.
Diamondback Terrapins get their name from gemstone-shaped patterns on their shells, which look more to modern eyes like an arrangement of rollup sandwiches. In fact, it was their tastiness that got the terrapins in trouble in the first place. Now, the reptiles are victims of habitat loss, crab traps, and cars.
“The road mortality during the nesting season in the summer is one of the main threats,” says Lisa Ferguson of the Wetlands Institute.
To give the terrapins a fighting chance, Lisa Ferguson of the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor says the organization patrols a 38-mile circuit from Stone Harbor to the south end of Ocean City, getting the able-bodied across the road, taking the injured to a vet, and picking up the dead.
“If possible, we will remove the eggs that they are carrying, so we can incubate those eggs, and we can raise the hatchlings to be released to the wild,” says Ferguson.
Ferguson says you can help by slowing down, and, if it’s safe to pull over, lending a hand.
“The best thing to do is to cross her in the direction she was traveling, because that is the direction she wants to go,” says Ferguson.
The terrapin is a lot more than the only turtle that can live in brackish saltwater marshes. It’s also an important predator.
“One of the animals they eat is a periwinkle snail. And if the periwinkles become overabundant, then they will break down and do damage to the grasses that maintain the marsh, and keep it whole and complete. Terrapins have a localized population, so they can become extinct in a small area, and not be repopulated, and various studies have shown that areas without terrapins are less healthy with regard to their marshes,” says Ferguson.
For more information, visit: wetlandsinstitute.org.