NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - June to July is turtle nesting season. The little guys need some help from humans to make sure eggs have a chance to hatch, experts say. While this oppressive heat may be too much for people, diamondback terrapins tend to like it.
Dr. Russell Burke is a biologist who spends his summers at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens studying the turtle population. You can find the reptiles in the salt marshes but come June and July the females make their way to the fields to nest.
They dig the hole, lay the eggs, tamp the sand down on top it, scratch the sand back over the top so you can't see it and then they run away," he said, adding that terrapins are being killed faster than they're being replaced, especially this time of year when drivers aren't careful.
"I moved here 20 years ago and there used to be healthy populations along the southern end of the Meadowbrook and now those turtles are mostly gone," Burke said. "I almost never see turtles there anymore."
To help boost the population, he digs up terrapin eggs and studies their hatch rates in a controlled environment. It is uncommon for eggs to hatch on their own because they have so many predators. All of the eggs collected from the nests are brought to the lab. They incubate for 80 to 90 days and they're released once they hatch.
"Their sex determination is based on the temperature of the nest," said Kelly Hamilton of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. "If it's warmer temperatures, they tend to hatch females. And if the eggs are cooler temperatures they tend to hatch males."
The DEC said it is hard to control a turtle's instincts. One female Burke showed us is at least 80 years old and she isn't changing her ways now. What can we do to help? Watch where you're going on the roads.
"Every one of those turtles has lived a long life and we'd like them to continue to live a long life," Burke said.