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Over 800 turtles rescued from storm drains, housed at university

Sunday, May 9th 2021, 10:14 pm - The turtles were able to survive for months off of their yolk sacs while inside storm drains in Ocean and Ventnor cities in New Jersey.

A university in New Jersey has just increased its enrolment by 826. While that may seem like a small number, it should be noted that the new residents are turtles.

In recent weeks, staff at Stockton University have brought in 826 diamondback terrapin hatchlings that were hiding in from cold temperatures during the winter. They were found in their nests that were situated underground.

SEE ALSO: Baby sea turtles rescued in Italian waters: See it here

The turtles were able to survive for months off of their yolk sacs while inside storm drains in Ocean and Ventnor cities in New Jersey. The rescued terrapins in are now in a head-start program at the Stockton's vivarium, where they will receive care from staff.

"Eggs laid later in the year hatch out underground and spend the winter in the nest chamber surviving off their yolk sac," John Rokita, assistant supervisor of Academic Lab Services, said in a news release.

Diamondback terrapins/Lester Block More than 800 diamondback terrapins were rescued in recent weeks by Stockton University staff. (Lester Block).

ANNUAL CARE AT STOCKTON

In the weeks ahead, more diamondback terrapins will be coming to the university from a conservation partnership with The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, N.J., which extracts and incubates eggs from road-killed females.

Hatchlings will spend about a year at Stockton under ideal growing conditions prior to being released back into the wild, giving them a head start. A terrapin that gets an early start on its growth in captivity is two or three times larger than a wild terrapin of the same age, according to the university.

There are currently 1,108 terrapins receiving care at Stockton, according to a census count taken on May 4 by students Brandon Henry and Heather Bariso. This year's 826 new terrapins join rescues from last year, raised from road-killed females and eight adults that were unreleasable -- all from long-term captive situations.

THEIR JOURNEY BEGINS WHEN TEMPERATURES ARISE IN SPRING

Once the small terrapins awaken after temperatures rise in the spring, their dangerous journey starts.

Storm drain rescue turtles/Lester Block In the weeks ahead, more diamondback terrapins will be coming to Stockton University from a conservation partnership with The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, N.J. (Lester Block)

Babies have to overcome hurdles such as traffic crossings and curbs, so students regularly look for mobile terrapins so they can help them, according to the university. And now they can add storm drains to the list of challenges, as they found out the day they were discovered.

While the water in storm drains will eventually flow out, the unfiltered rainwater and runoff from roads and impenetrable surfaces is not a safe or suitable habitat for the terrapins.

So, how were the quarter-sized turtles retrieved from storm drains? Students made a custom scooper from a telescopic aquarium net and attached it to a bamboo pole that was lowered into the gutter.

JUNE IS DEADLY MONTH FOR TURTLES IN CANADA

With the official start to summer around the corner, and many people jumping at the chance to spend more time outdoors, the incoming warmer months can be a deadly time for turtles in Canada.

In June, turtles will be more visible as they seek out safe nesting areas to lay their eggs. As a result, they often find themselves in the direct path of vehicles as they attempt to cross roadways, leading to their demise in many cases.

While driving, it is recommended to keep your eyes open for any dark objects on the road. See a large rock ahead? There's a good chance it is actually a turtle, so avoid hitting it, if possible (also not safe to hit rocks). More safety tips on avoiding turtle collisions and coming across vulnerable or injured turtles can be found here.

Thumbnail courtesy of Lester Block.

With files from Erin Wenckstern.

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