Saturday, February 27, 2016

Protecting Ramapo River Wildlife

black-crowned night heron (

By Marissa Erdelyi

The Ramapo River watershed, which is part of the Passaic River Basin, is located in northern New Jersey and an adjacent part of Rockland and Orange counties in New York. The watershed contains many rivers, ponds, reservoirs and lakes used for recreational purposes such as fishing and boating. Alongside recreation for homo sapiens, the watershed provides a home for different types of wildlife, each with their own living needs that the watershed is able to supply.

Several of the creatures that call the watershed home are ones that should be watched over. There are many “Species of Special Concern” that can be found living in the water or under the leaves of the watershed forests.

According to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, species of special concern, “applies to species that warrant special attention because of inherent vulnerability to environmental deterioration or habitat modification that would result in its becoming threatened if conditions surrounding the species begin or continue to deteriorate.” Not only do these species call for attention, but also their habitats. If any major changes occur to the environment, it can mean the end for the species in the area.

Spotted Turtle

The spotted turtle a species of special concern that can be found within the watershed. The decline of the spotted turtle in New York is highly due to loss of habitat. Spotted turtles live in marsh meadows, bogs, ponds, and various bodies of still water. While spotting the turtle is a rarity now, in the early 1900’s it was the most common turtle in New York City. As the water quality in the watershed declines, so does the population of the spotted turtle, as it is extremely sensitive to pollution and toxics.

Eastern Box Turtle

The eastern box turtle is another species that can be found living within the watershed. Eastern box turtles are land turtles that prefer deciduous or mixed forested regions. While the eastern box turtle is not a special concern species, it is still extremely vulnerable to changing conditions. Many eastern box turtles’ deaths are human-induced, such as being hit by a car (due to their slow crawl) or passing in captivity. The eastern box turtle also has a low population due to the fact that they produce a small amount of off-spring each year.

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned night herons can be found in the watershed year round. The habitat of choice for these herons are shores, marshes, rivers and ponds with trees where they can nest in the groves. The black-crowned night heron was once quite common in New Jersey. However, in the late 1900’s, the heron’s population dropped dramatically from 1,500 in the 1970’s to 200 in the 1990’s. This decrease was due to habitat destruction, disturbance of nesting communities, and contaminants. 

Copperhead Snake

Copperheads in New Jersey are found only in the northern region. The snakes inhabit rocky fields, wooded wetlands, and rocky wooded hillsides. Although the killing of a snake is illegal in New Jersey, it is one of the many reasons that this species has declined and is under special concern. Other reasons for the decline of the species includes habitat fragmentation, illegal collection, and being run over by cars.


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