Sea Isle City Terrapin Rescue Inviting Families To Help Release Diamondback Terrapin Turtles Into Marshlands – CBS Philly

SEA ISLE CITY, N.J. (CBS) — A husband and wife are working to save Diamondback Terrapin turtles in Sea Isle City, a Jersey Shore town in Cape May County. Susan and Steve Ahern are the founders of the Sea Isle Terrapin Rescue.

The couple retired back in 2007 and knew they wanted to find a volunteer opportunity to take up in their free time. In 2008 they visited the Cape May Wetlands Institute, participating in their projects before taking their ideas to the environmental commission in Sea Isle City.

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“It becomes a real passion to do it, we started with kinda trying to keep them off the roads, keep them from areas where they would get hit and killed, then we realized they wouldn’t have anywhere to nest, so it’s really progressed,” Steve said.

The Diamondback Terrapin turtles are not sea turtles and live in the marsh.

The female Diamondback Terrapin turtles begin nesting around June 1 and for the next several weeks, the Aherns focus on keeping the turtles safe. They also ask beachgoers to keep their eyes out for nesting locations.

“I go around and move them off the streets, try to get them to safety in terms of giving them the opportunity to nest and get back to the marsh,” Steve said.

Unfortunately, many turtles get hit by vehicles, injured or worse.

The Wetlands Insitute collects the eggs from injured and deceased turtles and incubates them at their Stone Harbor facility. The turtles’ sex is determined by the temperature at which the egg is incubated.

They aim to make sure female turtles are hatching to replace those that are not surviving when they come out of the marsh to nest.

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For the next year, local universities help keep the turtles awake through the winter in an effort to keep them growing before they are released back into the marshland. Steve says this allows the baby turtles to grow from about the size of a quarter to around the size of the palm of your hand.

At the end of July, the Wetlands provides around 30 turtles to the Aherns to release back into the wild. In an effort to help keep track of the population, the Wetlands Institute microchips the turtles prior to their release.

Steve also mentioned that male Diamondback Terrapin turtles are almost never seen.

The Aherns invite the public to join them for the turtles’ release. The event is taking place on Sunday, July 24 at 10 a.m. between 61st and 63rd Street on the bay, near the Dealy Field Hockey Court.

There will be a brief educational presentation where the Aherns will explain where the terrapins were found and the type of care they have been receiving over the last year. Then, everyone will head to the marshes where the turtles will be released into the wild.

Steve says there is normally a decent size crowd and they try to release a turtle with each family. The family has the ability to be hands-on in the release of the turtle, as long as they are comfortable and not scared.

Many families name the turtle before releasing back into the marsh.

Anyone attending the event should bring sunblock and bug repellent and the Aherns warn, your shoes may get dirty.

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In the meantime, if you see any turtles trying to cross any of Sea Isle’s busy roads, you are encouraged to help the turtle across, but please think of your safety first. If you see an injured turtle, you can contact Steve or Susan Ahern at 609-263-7358.

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