by Beth Burnsed, Jekyll Island Authority
Thanks to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the University of Georgia, and the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, diamondback terrapins now have safe havens along the Jekyll Island Causeway. Artificial nest mounds with raccoon proof cages have been placed at strategic points to hopefully reduce the number of terrapins crossing the road.
“Every year 200-300 terrapins are hit by cars while trying to cross the causeway,” said Dr. Terry Norton, Director and Veterinarian for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center “The turtles are looking for elevated ground to nest. Since the roadways are elevated above the marshlands around them, terrapins often believe them to be suitable nesting areas.”
The mounds were built to be safe elevated nesting areas approximately 30 ft back from the edge of the causeway to thereby decrease the number of times the terrapins try to cross the road. In addition, cages on top of the mounds will reduce the threat of predation. Terrapins can get in and out of the cages through small spaces at the bottom, but predators such as raccoons can not.
The work, although in its preliminary stages, is backed by similar projects in the Northeast for wood turtles. The concept is still in a research stage, and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and its collaborators will examine the results at the end of the nesting season to see how much of difference the project made. “We are basically testing it out,” said Norton. “So it is a research project with conservation implications.”