Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Turtle Investigation

A couple of weeks ago, this little guy scuttled through our yard.
We didn't want to bother it too much. We watched it for a few minutes...

Handled it briefly...

then left it alone. (Note: turtles can carry salmonella, so it's important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water if you handle one).

Then, last Monday, this much bigger turtle seemed to charge through our lawn.
Check out the coloration on her neck: (Click the photo to make it larger)

 She stopped by to check out my daughter who was watching her...
then headed for the flower bed in front of our house. I had just weeded it and turned over the soil. I suspected she would lay eggs in my garden, so I watched closely. She didn't. Instead, she made her way to an area in our back yard that was freshly mowed and began digging a hole. I was amazed by how indifferent she seemed to our presence.

 First she'd dig down with her right leg, then her left leg.  My husband and son carefully placed markers around the area and we went to eat dinner. I checked on her a couple of times as she dug the hole.
Thank goodness my husband and son had marked the place because this is all we could see when she was done:

 We never would have found the exact spot.

So now what? We do a little research and wait. We need to learn the species of turtle so we'll have a better idea of how long those eggs will take to hatch. Once we know that, we'll know when to watch that spot for action. The chances of seeing them hatch are slim. But, even if we don' t see them hatch, we may see evidence that they hatched in the from of disturbed soil or eggshells. 

We will NOT attempt to dig them up. I know turtle eggs must remain at a consistent temperature in order to hatch. Once, we accidentally disturbed a bunch of turtles eggs that had been layed in our mulch pile. We only discovered them once the pile was removed and the conditions were altered. We attempted to help them hatch with no success.  That mama turtle chose the place to lay her eggs carefully, so we're not going to mess with them.

Challenge: Can you identify the species of the little turtle? How about the big one? How long will the eggs take to hatch? Do you know any other interesting facts about turtle eggs?


  1. Hi Michelle and kids
    I had a similar experience with box turtles. We found one on Monday, marked it with 1 stripe of florescent paint, on Wednesday another, marked it with 2 stripes, Friday a 3rd, 3 stripes! Marked the nest sites, they take @85 days.
    An excellent site is www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/nhesp/conservation/herps/turtle_tips.htm
    or any of the info on MA fish and wildlife Natural Heritage.
    Yours is either a painted or cooter, depending on whether is has a yellow patch behind eye.
    By the way, enjoyed Dante's enthusiasm at RMS local history presentation. He is a very knowledgeable young man.

  2. Great post. Awesome pictures (especially the turtle checking out your girl!). When activity happens with these eggs, you've got to call Jemberu. He love this nature stuff.

  3. Laurene,cool idea to paint them. Have you seen your marked turtles return?

    Is painting them safe? I wonder- will the florescent paint ruin their camouflage and make them more susceptible to predators?

    I thought it was a Painted turtle. I don't know about cooter turtles. I'll have to look them up and compare my photos to a field guide.

    Alison, If we see anything, I'll be sure to call like we do on wood frog migration days.