Funds still needed for annual Terrapin Rescue

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A diamond backed terrapin comes out of the water to find a place to nest for the season, which runs from Memorial Day to July. A diamond backed terrapin comes out of the water to find a place to nest for the season, which runs from Memorial Day to July.  The Margate Terrapin Rescue Project is very near its fundraising goal of $8,100 to pay for fencing that will prevent diamond back terrapins from being crushed by throngs of visitors to the Jersey shore.

Many Margate and Northfield residents are aware that terrapins are often killed when they come out of the water nest between Memorial Day and mid-July, and they know how the corrugated black pipe laying alongside the causeway helps them from getting onto the roadway. However, many visitors are clueless to the danger their vehicles present to fragile wildlife.

“They crawl above the high tide line to lay their eggs, which cannot get wet or they will die. Nesting starts when the summer tourist season begins and there is a surge of traffic from Philadelphia to the island, which is a recipe for disaster,” Bill Doughty of Northfield, a founding member of the volunteer group, said.

Long gone are the days the terrapins would nest on the island, he said.

A hard plastic 8-inch half-pipe will be installed along a section of the Margate causeway to prevent terrapins from getting onto the roadway.  A hard plastic 8-inch half-pipe will be installed along a section of the Margate causeway to prevent terrapins from getting onto the roadway.  “The entire island has been developed, so the only area left for them to nest is on the shoulder of the Margate Causeway,” Doughty said. “They dig a hole with their back legs and bury about 12 eggs that hatch about 60 days later.”

Some terrapins come out of the water to lay their eggs several times during the nesting season, and some of the eggs hatch as late as September. The danger cycle begins anew, as the hatchlings are extremely challenged to make it to the water.

“There are a lot of odds against them, with seagulls, birds and raccoons trying to eat them,” he said.

Doughty moved here in 2007 and it only took a year for him to realize their plight. He discovered 114 female terrapins were crushed on the causeway by unaware passing motorists that summer and decided to do something about it. He partnered with Lisa Doherty of Margate to form the all-volunteer organization that works each spring to install the pipe that prevents the terrapins’ certain death. They raise the funds needed to purchase the tubing, which was recommended by experts at the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor.

“We are a just a collection of people trying to mitigate this environmental problem,” he said.

Michael Lentz is the CFO and treasurer of Ole Hansen and Sons, Inc. which owns the Margate Bridge. He said the company embraces the effort and provides in-kind support.

“I even had our Cub Scout Pack help out when I was involved in Scouting. We allow our guys to help out and they use our equipment,” Lentz said.

Kline Construction Company provides traffic control during the installation and Dave Notaro, a contractor from Northfield, donates the use of his DitchWitch. Local businesses have provided financial support, including Crab Trap and Dino’s Sub Shop among others, Doughty said.

Hurricane Sandy washed away much of the piping, but last year, the group was able to re-install piping about two-thirds of the way across the causeway.

“We didn’t have the resources to do all of it and now there’s a large section of roadway that needs to be done before Memorial Day,” Doughty said.

Technology has changed and now the group will install a concave rigid plastic half-pipe that is guaranteed to keep the terrapins from climbing over it. The group will purchase as much fencing as they can on May 1 and have it installed by May 15, Doughty said.

On April 24, Doughty said the group was $1,000 short of its goal, but said the project would proceed as planned.

Donations can be made on the organization’s website, www.margateterrapinrescue.com, or by sending a check to the Wetlands Institute with a notation it is for the Margate causeway, c/o Bill Doughty, Jr., 17 Haviv Dr., Northfield, NJ 08225.


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