April 24, 2023
Blog All Blogs Latest Blog
There are plenty of ways to help sea turtles and other ocean life through practices like recycling, cutting back on single-use plastics, using reef-safe sunblock, and consuming sustainable seafood.
But did you know that there are species right here in New Jersey that need your help too?
According to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, diamondback terrapin populations were once plentiful and a common food source for Native Americans and European settlers before they were hunted to the brink of extinction by the early 1900s.
While populations have bounced back since then, most recently, population declines have been noted across the diamondback terrapin’s native range. In New Jersey, diamondback terrapins are a species of special concern, with populations declining due to habitat destruction, crabbing and fishing traps, and roadway accidents.
When driving down the shore to places like Wildwood, Sea Isle, Ocean City, or Avalon, it’s common to spot diamondback terrapins crossing the roads. The spring and summer seasons are the most likely time to spot terrapins crossing the road, as females leave their typical homes to nest on higher ground. This journey often requires the turtles to cross busy roadways, putting them at risk of getting hit by vehicles driving by.
Thankfully, there is a way you can help these amazing creatures. But while you may be tempted to get these little guys to safety quickly, you’re only helping if you do it right!
Read on for our tips on how YOU can help local turtles that end up on our roadways:
If possible, it’s always best to let a turtle cross the road unassisted. They may be slow movers, but they know where they’re going! If you’re able to stand by safely and watch the turtle cross successfully, that’s the best thing you can do.
However, if it’s too dangerous for a solo trip and you need to intervene, ALWAYS move the turtle in the same direction it was originally traveling. If you move the turtle back in the direction it came from, it will likely turn around and attempt to cross the road again, putting them back in danger.
If you absolutely have to move a turtle across the road, be sure to do it safely! When picking up a turtle, grasp it by the shell on both sides of its body just in front of the hind legs. NEVER pick a turtle up by its tail.
Be aware that the turtle may move around upon being picked up, so be careful not to drop them along the way. If you are unable to pick the turtle up, use a blunt object or even your car floor mats to encourage the turtle across the street (REMEMBER: in the direction they were already going!).
While you might think that you’re helping by moving a turtle out of the road and into a pond down the street, this can actually be a death wish for our shelled friends. Turtles like to stick to their “home range” and don’t typically travel more than a mile or two from where they were originally hatched. If you move a turtle into an area they are unfamiliar with, it may fail to thrive or continually attempt to make its way back home, putting them in more danger.
Many people also don’t realize diamondback terrapins live in brackish waters (a mix of salt and freshwater) like marshes, tidal rivers, and coastal bays. In fact, they are the ONLY aquatic turtle species that lives in brackish water. So, if you release them into a freshwater pond or creek, they will begin to experience health issues that could lead to death.
There are plenty of organizations in New Jersey and across the country that focus on protecting diamondback terrapins and their habitats. If you’re interested in getting involved locally, check out the following organizations based right here in New Jersey:
Now that you know all of this valuable knowledge on how to protect these beautiful and unique turtles, spread the word and let others know how they can help – we’re all in this together!
If you’d like to see and learn about this amazing species, you can do so right here at Adventure Aquarium. They are just one of the many species of turtles that are under our care.
Blog All Blogs Latest Blog