Snap, Wiggle, and Plop

When Bill and his crew were planting trillium seedlings in our outdoor production beds last week, they spotted what first appeared to be a large stump that mysteriously showed up in the middle of one of the beds. Further examination revealed it to be our native common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), who had chosen one of our beds for its nesting site. Female turtles dig a hole between 8 and 12 inches deep, in which they lay between 25 and 50 golf ball-sized eggs in 1-3 hours. Once they finish, the snappers cover the eggs, carefully raking the ground to throw off predators, and then return to the water. Until they hatch, the eggs are vulnerable to predators like foxes, racoons, and even crows, of which all reside on the property. If all goes well, the eggs hatch within 70-80 days, and the hatchlings amble towards the nearby pond, without any direction, or a follow up visit from mom. Between hatching and gaining size, small snappers are also subject to hawks, owls, herons, and snakes. In nature, it’s eat or get eaten.

Common snapping turtle

2 thoughts on “Snap, Wiggle, and Plop”

  1. Frank gilbert

    Love this . Hope you cage the site to keep raccoons from digging up the eggs. All turtles are fascinating although I keep a healthy distance from snappers.

  2. Charles Miller

    About a week ago I came across a turtle in the process of laying its eggs. It was a yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta). The location of the ‘nest’ was in rock-hard red clay in the middle of a powerline right-of-way access path. The turtle had dissolved a ‘cavity’ in the clay with its urine and was finishing depositing its eggs when I stumbled upon it. Knowing sea turtles lay their eggs in soft sand along the beaches of NC, I was puzzled why this pond turtle would choose such a hard-packed, unyielding site for its nest. I did a little checking and found the native slider turtle evolved in our area where red clay is the prevalent soil type. Their bladders must have co-evolved to hold sufficient volume of urine to assist in the extensive hydraulic excavation. After the slider turtle lays their eggs, instinct tells them to plug the opening with wet softened clay, and when the clay nest dries, inside and out, it naturally forms a very hard protective shell around the eggs. This rock-hard red clay nest protects the eggs from predators who would like nothing more than to have turtle eggs for dinner. Turtles are Darwinian evolution at its finest and pre-date the dinosaurs.

    What happened to the eggs, the turtles?

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