What are Turtle Gardens?
-Turtle Gardens are patches of sandy soil above the high water line that provide nesting habitat for diamondback terrapins and other nesters
Why are Turtle Gardens important?
-Nesting habitat is being lost due to shoreline development, erosion and flooding.
-Turtle Gardens can provide nesting habitat for terrapins that would otherwise cross roadways and put themselves in danger to find suitable habitat to nest.
-Turtle Gardens give terrapins a place to nest without risking their safety.
How are Turtle Gardens made?
-A suitable area for a Turtle Garden is chosen based on terrapin access areas used by terrapins to seek nesting areas.
-A Turtle Garden is made of a mixture of sands and soils of different particle sizes to best imitate natural conditions of a terrapin nesting habitat.
-The sand is spread around the area above the high water line with at least two feet (60 cm) of elevation to give terrapins plenty of space to dig down without being below the high water line.
Example of the Turtle Garden Process
Turtle Garden installed at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and
Sciences (LBIF) in Loveladies, New Jersey during the spring 2015.
Addressing the Problem
Terrapins at the LBIF were accessing the parking lot to nest and were sometimes hit by cars.
-We first survey the location and decide on the best place to put the Turtle Garden.
In this case, we decided the best place was next to the path the terrrapins used to
access nesting areas across the parking lot and/or roadway. We then cleared the
vegetation, but we leave enough to provide some shade and shelter for emerging
-The sand mixture is delivered and then evenly spread throughout the area creating
a two foot (60 cm) elevation the center of the Garden.
- All sides of the Turtle Garden are given a gental slope to provide the nesting
terrapins easy access to the site.
- At this particular Turtle Garden, a small fence was installed just prior to the
hatchlings emerging to keep the terrapin hatchlings from wandering into the
parking lot after emergence. Hatchlings did have access to the path.
- This Garden used cages to protect nests from predators while still allowing
hatchlings to escape. This provided us an opportunity to determine hatch success.
The first year was a success with most of the eggs hatching from five nests in the Turtle Garden!
All of the eggs hatched in two of five nests
(8 and 10 eggs).
Two nests hatched all but one of their eggs
(10 of 11 eggs and 3 of 4 eggs).
Only one nest had less than 50% hatching.
A project to enhance diamondback terrapin nesting habitat by The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and MATES Project Terrapin, supported by a grant from the Barnegat Bay Partnership
All photos were provided by John Wnek or Stephanie Egger
Turtle Garden Resources: