Build a roadside barrier: Help save NJ diamondback terrapins
MARGATE — It's that time of year again to come out and help save the terrapins,
The Margate Terrapin Rescue Project hosts the 8th Annual Roadside Barrier Installation Day, Sunday, May 15 (rescheduled from Saturday, May 14 due to weather), at 8 a.m. on the Margate Causeway.
To ensure the best protection for terrapins from vehicles, volunteers perform barrier maintenance on existing barriers, install any remaining purchased barriers, as well as perform roadside and marsh cleanup to give the terrapins a clean trash-free habitat, said Primary Coordinator, Kimberly Wiech.
The roadside barriers line the Margate Causeway to help prevent the animals, mainly nesting females from crossing the road and unfortunately, being hit by vehicles, she said.
Diamondback terrapins nest from the end of May to mid-July. Before the season begins, Wiech said volunteers go out and repair loose barriers from the year before, or fix those that have become dislodged. They may install new barriers that have gone missing due to powerful storms.
Volunteers will help dig trenches, move the barriers, fasten them together and install fencing along the guardrails. In the past, Wiech said they've had upwards of around 50 volunteers show up to help. She is hoping for even more this year.
Kids, ages 8 years and older are welcome to help clean up the roadside and marshes and even help dig the trenches or move the barriers around.
Everyone will meet at 8 a.m. at the maintenance yard right before the toll bridge on the Margate Causeway. Tasks for the day will be handed out at that time.
Volunteers should bring their own shovels, trench shovels (if they have them), wire cutters, rakes, cordless drills with a Phillips drill bit, mallet, and hammer. Make sure to put your name and phone number on all the tools you bring.
Wear bright clothing, long sleeves, long pants, old shoes, and gloves. Don't forget the bug spray!
Roadside Barrier Installation Day usually lasts about 4-5 hours. Drinks and light snacks will be served.
"Diamondback terrapins are crossing the roadways during this time to look for an ideal place to nest. The females are the only ones coming onto the land, walking around trying to find the perfect nesting ground to lay their eggs," said Wiech.
Unfortunately, the marshes in the barrier islands used to have plenty of great nesting areas for the terrapins. But now with all the developments and bulkheads, there are no great spots for them to lay eggs. The females wind up crossing less-than-ideal roadways toward other salt marshes to find a spot to nest.
Many drivers do not see these terrapins in the roadways, oftentimes hitting them. Wiech said the problem is they are disproportionately hitting females because females are the only ones crossing the roads to find nesting spots to lay their eggs.
"That's really causing an issue with the population. We've definitely seen the population numbers dwindle over the last two decades," Wiech said. This is a major concern for the species.
She said when all is said and done and someone happens to see a terrapin in the middle of the road, stop to help them, if possible.
Wiech said you can absolutely pick up a diamondback terrapin. They are generally docile, and not aggressive like a snapping turtle. She said to be sure to move the terrapin off the road in the direction it was headed. Don't bring it back to the direction it was coming from because they will just turn around and wind up in the same predicament.
All helpers, including children, must sign an electronic waiver before volunteering on Sunday.
Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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