Over 2,500 Baby Diamondback Terrapins Released!

By Kathy Lacey

In spite of a late start with nesting, lower than average temperatures in August and numerous rain storms, the Terrapin Nesting Project had a very successful season. Our volunteer base has  more than doubled. To date, between our 3 hatcheries and 4 natural nesting sites, we released 2,687 hatchlings into the marshes in the bay in 2017!

Within the next few weeks the remaining 300 still incubating will be released. 

With our 7th season under our belts, we have united a community, an 18 mile long barrier island in an effort to save a species. We presented at many local events and clubs, increasing our support and spreading awareness and education. 

We had 7 "pet" terrapins returned to us to release into the bay. They had been captured as hatchlings and were being kept in people's homes illegally. Due to our outreach education people were made aware of the fact they should not be pets.

The addition of 3 new sand nesting sites made us more visible and productive. We are returning to a more natural and balanced approach for nesting terrapins, so we no longer have to move nests to our hatcheries. 

Notching, weighing and measuring our females, noting returning nesters has added to our base of knowledge and will be vital as we expand our research near year.

Since the project's inception, our goal has always been to "restore the balance." Not just increase the population of terrapins, but return the area to a more natural setting for nesting Terrapins.

Long Beach Island is a very wealthy shore resort as well as year-round home for many. The homes built along the bay have replaced the beaches with bulkheads, docks, and the sandy soil has been replaced by manicured lawns, clay and stone substrate, much of it on a filter fiber fabric meant to discourage weeds.  It makes nesting nearly impossible.

For Lisa, one of my volunteers and homeowners, her manicured yard lost its appeal after working with us on the project. Her yard has been a nesting site for the terrapins for generations, and the girls (AKA female terrapins) kept returning to her front yard to nest

In the very early spring of 2016, Lisa and her husband Mike dumped truckloads of sand onto their front yard!! All for the Terrapins. Sand dunes where there had been crushed shells, clay and landscaping.  I knew the "girls" would appreciate it -- they'd been digging thru the other stuff for years! (We know, because we record the location of all of our nests.)

It didn't take long for the first females to arrive, and they were smiling!  To keep the nests safe, we built wire predator-proof nest covers. In no time, there were natural nests on Lisa's front lawn. It became quite the local attraction and a great place to educate people. The local paper ran a story, and then came NBC news!!

Others are inspired and want to do the same. We already have 4 homeowners committed to "Re-beaching" their yards. We can't wait to see who's next.

Sand it and they will come!!