By Maddy Vitale
Nesting season for the diamondback terrapins began on Memorial Day and activity has been heavy, said Steve Ahern, who, along with his wife, Susan, runs the Sea Isle Terrapin Rescue organization.
Special metal fencing visible under the guardrail along Sea Isle Boulevard is designed to keep the turtles safely off the roadway. It has helped a lot, but there have been a few problems, Ahern explained Thursday.
The fencing installed over the last year, replaced plastic tubing which had gaps that terrapins crawled through and onto the roadway.
While the new fencing is working well, construction projects have posed some problems.
“The fencing on the boulevard has been very effective, but continued work on the shoulders and (Garden State) Parkway exit has left areas where the fencing was not up when nesting began,” Ahern noted.
As part of Sea Isle Boulevard’s reconstruction, the entrance ramp to Exit 17 of the Garden State Parkway is being reconfigured and widened. The project is slated to be completed June 21.
In the meantime, the Garden State Parkway exit project, and work on Sea Isle Boulevard has created openings where turtles could get onto the road.
“Much progress has been made and all the fencing should be completed by tomorrow,” Ahern said. “The timing of the beginning of the nesting season and completion of the fencing was unfortunate.”
Nesting season for the diamondback terrapin lasts until about the third week in July.
The turtles look for a place above the high tide line to lay their eggs. They lay anywhere from eight to 12 eggs and can come out up to three times in a nesting season, Ahern said.
He is hopeful that with the fencing, and the near completion of the road reconstruction projects, fewer and fewer turtles will travel onto the roadway and get hit by passing motorists.
There is something people can do to help the terrapins, Ahern added. His recommendation applies to anywhere throughout Sea Isle City.
If drivers or pedestrians see a turtle crossing the road, and if they may safely do so, they can pick up the turtle and move it across the road.
The terrapins must be placed in the direction they are going, or they may turn around.
Diamondback terrapins can live for 30 to 40 years, but with roadwork, construction, shore traffic, and deaths related to the fishing industry, longevity is always a concern. The terrapins are not been listed as threatened or endangered in New Jersey, but they are listed as decreasing.
Only one egg in a thousand grows up to be an adult turtle, Ahern said.
For more information call the Aherns Sea Isle Terrapin Rescue organization at (609) 263-7358 and also check out the Facebook page.