By MADDY VITALE
Officials and the public are stumped by the influx of terrapins making their way onto Sea Isle Boulevard and getting run over.
Nesting season for the diamondback terrapin begins in May and lasts until around the third week in July. The terrapins are traveling back to the marsh after laying their eggs in sandy soil.
But lately, they are not getting the chance.
The concern is that the metal turtle fencing along Sea Isle Boulevard, which is technically in Dennis Township, and prevents turtles from getting onto the roadway, had a breach or breaches in it.
Steve Ahern, who, along with his wife, Susan, runs the Sea Isle Terrapin Rescue organization, said Thursday that they hoped something could be done because terrapins are vital to the shore environmental.
“The terrapins are an important part of keeping the marshes clean and in balance,” he said.
Ahern said the hope is that “the county Public Works Department is able to get out and inspect the fence on Sea Isle Boulevard as there are a few holes.”
Dennis Township Mayor Zeth A. Matalucci even got involved. He sent a letter to the county requesting the Department of Public Works to come out to fix the breaches in the turtle fencing.
However, a Public Works supervisor inspected the fencing Thursday morning and did not find one breach, county engineer Bob Church said. He noted they will continue to inspect the area.
“Yesterday, we had received a complaint concerning turtles crossing the roadway and the public assumed that there was a breach in the turtle fencing,” Church said in an email. “At about 10:30 a.m. (Thursday), we dispatched one of our road supervisors to inspect the fencing for any possible breaches and he reported back that he observed no breaches.”
Church had a theory.
“I can only surmise that perhaps some terrapins have been able to scale the fencing at areas where either debris and/or vegetation creates a small ramp to gain access over the fence or somehow have been able to burrow under the buried fence components,” he added. “Our public works personnel will investigate this further.”
The matter has gained attention of concerned residents, motorists and turtle lovers.
People are saddened to see crushed turtles on Sea Isle Boulevard. Other areas where there have been more noticeable numbers of dead turtles this nesting season are along Landis Avenue heading into Strathmere and Central Avenue in Sea Isle.
Annette Lombardo, chair of the Sea Isle City Environmental Commission, urged motorists to slow down along Landis Avenue and throughout the city.
“I’ve noticed more dead turtles on the way to Strathmere on Landis. I don’t know if people are paying attention to the turtle crossing signs.”
Roxanne Marino Stark and others posted comments over the last few days on social media. Like the Aherns, they too wanted to know how so many turtles were getting onto the roads and being killed.
Stark wrote, “The last four days coming into town people are smashing their brakes in an attempt to save a turtle, almost causing an accident. Each time the turtle was hit anyway. This morning I pulled over to try to get a large turtle to the other side only to have it run over right in front of me.”
Dana Bergamo Leone posted, “On Sunday there were so many dead on the side of the road, I thought about it all night. In 23 years, I have never seen that many … ever.”
The Aherns, along with other turtle rescue volunteers, will continue to monitor the matter throughout Sea Isle and the surrounding communities.
Another area where drivers should be extra cautious is along Central Avenue in Sea Isle, Steve Ahern said.
“I’ve been disappointed so far in the number of kills on Central Avenue between 50th and 75th,” he said. “While people aren’t speeding there, they are not paying attention like they should.”
He offered one positive observation that he and Susan and their fellow volunteers have witnessed this turtle nesting season.
“There are still a few people who are speeding along, but for the most part, the drivers are stopping and helping the terrapins across,” he pointed out. “They deserve a big thank you and encouragement to continue doing what they’re doing.”
For information about the Sea Isle Terrapin Rescue organization call the Aherns at (609) 263-7358.