Egg Season for Michigan Turtles

Snapping Turtle, photo by Kevin Povenz

I came across a cool video of a snapping turtle laying her eggs – check it out below! The Michigan Turtles page from the DNR says in part:

Turtles reproduce by internal fertilization and produce shelled eggs deposited on land. Most mating takes place in spring after a brief courtship, which begins shortly after turtles emerge from their hibernation sites. Courtship displays vary greatly. Male Eastern Box turtles chase their intended mates and nip at their shell edges, or chin. Female painted turtles receive soft toenail strokes from potential mates. Male snapping turtles may fight fierce battles to drive rivals away from a choice breeding territory.

Between late May and early July, a female turtle will leave the water and seek a sunny spot with little or no vegetation and moist, but not saturated, sand or soil. She digs a shallow nest cavity with her hind feet and deposits her clutch of eggs. Depending on species, the eggs may be round or oval and have either hard or flexible shells. The nest is then refilled by the female with excavated materials, without ever having seen the eggs and is abandoned to its fate. Many (probably most) turtle eggs are eaten by raccoons or other predators within a few days of being laid. Those that survive will hatch in two to three months. In most cases, the young head immediately for cover in shallow water (aquatic species) or leaf litter (box turtles). Young painted turtles have the ability to withstand partial freezing and often remain in the nest over winter, emerging in spring.

In most turtle species, gender is determined by the temperature of the egg during a critical part of incubation. In general, male turtles tend to hatch from cooler eggs, and females hatch from warmer eggs. Once hatched, baby turtles can grow quickly for the first few years, with growth slowing as they near adulthood.

Turtles are among the longest living animals on earth. Several species of turtles can live for several decades. With this longevity also comes a negative side. It takes several years for turtles to sexually mature (4 to 10 years for a Painted turtle, 14 to 20 years for a Blanding’s or Wood turtle, and 15 years for a Snapping turtle). Non breeding turtles are often the targets of predators, automobiles, and pet seekers. In addition, the longer life span allows turtles to build up environmental toxins in their tissues. These toxins can have serious affects on a turtle’s health and breeding ability.

About this photo from 2014 Kevin writes: While out on our hunt for Bald Eagles on Sunday we came across 5 different female snapping turtles laying their eggs. This one was on the bank of the Grand River that was probably 10 feet above the river.

View it bigger and see more in his Animals slideshow.

11 thoughts on “Egg Season for Michigan Turtles

  1. 2018 june 3rd we also saw one matter a fact after spending days on my flower beds hubby saw a turtle digging and backed up between my flowers .We have a lot at grand river landing .We have been doing alot of work. The beautiful bald eagle is still flying around saw him memorial weekend.I guess i have to hope she doesn’t make a mess of things .Mother Nature comes first

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  2. We have a wood turtle laying her eggs in among our blueberry bushes. We were wondering if we should or can cover the area once she is done. Just trying to give them a chance. Should we even bother? (She looked all day around our property trying to find the perfect spot.

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  3. It sounds like the turtles do the covering. Here’s some info and I guess that you could add additional leaves or something:

    Females make their nests primarily in early June through late July. A sandy, moderately sloping, non-vegetated site, near a stream, three or so feet above the water line are ideal nesting sites. Particularly optimal sites may be used by a specific female year after year. The nest chamber is four inches wide and at least three inches deep. Clutch sizes range from five to fifteen eggs with ten being average. After laying the eggs, the female covers and obscures the nest and then leaves. Most eggs do not hatch. Nearly eighty percent of wood turtle eggs are consumed by raccoons and much of the remaining twenty percent by other nest predators (like shrews, skunks, and foxes). Incubation of the unconsumed eggs takes 47 to 69 days depending on the temperature and moisture conditions of the nest site. The eggs hatch in September and the young turtles (1 to 1 ½ inches in length, circular carapaces, dark brown color) seek aquatic habitats where they survive almost exclusively as predators.

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