From The Press of Atlantic City
MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — Patrice Dorfman couldn’t help but notice the turtles scurrying across North Wildwood Boulevard or squashed alongside it during drives to her North Wildwood vacation home last year.
So for two months this year, Dorfman, an interior designer from Newtown Square, Pa., undertook a daily and sometimes gruesome experiment.
She and her nephew Nick Plagge counted the dead ones.
She said the results — 82 recorded road kills — are driving the push for terrapin fencing along North Wildwood Boulevard.
They received assistance from the Wetlands Institute of Middle Township, a leader in local diamondback terrapin research that began using fencing several years ago to cut the deaths of nesting females in specific areas.
Similar barriers have been used for several years along Stone Harbor Boulevard, Avalon Boulevard and, recently, a community-driven terrapin barrier in Margate.
Dorfman, who started the website www.terrapinrescue.org, said she is trying to raise funds to erect the barriers.
On Thursday, state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, said he is asking the state Department of Transportation for permission to install fencing along North Wildwood Boulevard.
Roger Wood, director of research at the Wetlands Institute, said efforts like Dorfman’s and volunteers’ are important to saving terrapins.
The institute every year patrols a 40-mile stretch of road from Middle Township to Sea Isle City and Upper Township, documenting road kills, incubating eggs from road kills and saving female terrapins that were hit by cars.
But the institute does not have the money or resources to expand the fencing program to other areas, such as North Wildwood Boulevard, he said.
Dorfman said she and her nephew, a consultant from New York City, spent their mornings at the shore this year driving along North Wildwood Boulevard looking for terrapins.
When there was a road kill, they logged it on a sheet, using coordinates from the GPS system in their vehicle.
“It really concerned me,” she said.
When they encountered a road kill, they tried to salvage the eggs from the female terrapin, giving them to the Wetlands Institute, which assists in incubating the eggs.
“To see them with eggs on the road is discouraging because they did not even get the chance to nest,” she said.
Road kills of diamondback terrapins are a recurring problem each spring when the pregnant mothers leave the marshes to nest on high ground, which is often along road embankments.
This year, in the area the Wetlands Institute patrols, there were 608 road kills, the second-highest number recorded since the institute began keeping records nearly two decades ago, Wood said. The reasons for the increase are unknown, he said.