Nearly 830 baby turtles were rescued from storm drains across the Jersey Shore.
The 826 Diamondback terrapin hatchlings had been hiding from the cold winter temps in their nest chambers and recently hatched at the Stockton University vivarium.
Stockton alumna Evelyn Kidd and her friends scooped the turtles from Ventnor and Margate, while Marlene Galdi and Joanne Fres rescued the turtles from Ocean City.
"When a baby terrapin successfully crawls across the street, they can meet yet another obstacle -- the curb," the university wrote.
"Marlene and Joanne regularly look for crossing terrapins to give them a hand."
The women discovered that curbs aren't the only obstacles for the quarter-sized turtles, who are small enough to slip through cracks of storm drains.
"As we passed the storm drains, we noticed that there was activity in them," Marlene said. "When we looked closer, we saw that there were baby terrapins swimming in the storm drains."
The animal-lovers crafted a custom scooper form a telescopic aquarium net attached to a bamboo pole. It worked well.
The two enrolled their rescued terrapins in a head start program at the Stockton Vivarium where they will receive care from John Rokita and his staff.
Evelyn discovered storm drain terrapins from her brother and has been making rescues for years, the university said. She began training local kids in her neighborhood to expand her rescues.
More terrapins are expected to be arriving from a conservation partnership with The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor in the coming weeks. The partnership extracts and incubates eggs from road killed females.
Hatchlings spend about a year at Stockton under optimum growing conditions to give them a head start prior to being released back into the wild. A head-started terrapin is 2-3 times larger than a wild terrapin of the same age, the university said.
To date, there are 1,108 terrapins receiving care at Stockton.
Rokita is sharing tips for what to do if you find a terrapin hatchling in the street.
- Place it in a shallow container of room temperature water (fresh would be okay just for a day or so) filled just to the top of the carapace or shell. Place a flat rock or half of a clam shell in the container to provide a haul out area if needed.
- Place the container inside a protected area to prevent a passing gull or crow flying overhead from seeing it and having a terrapin snack.
- If it appears healthy and active with no eye infections or injuries present, then the finder could release it at dusk into a tidal creek or bay area; preferably a site with good hiding places like shells in the water and or Spartina (marsh grasses growing right at the edge or into the water). This will give the emergers ample places to hide come dawn and the threat of diurnal predators.
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