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Snapping Turtles Laying Eggs

6-11-13 snapping turtle eggs IMG_8932It’s that time of year again, when female aquatic turtles, including Snapping Turtles, are leaving their ponds to lay eggs. You are looking between the front and hind legs of a Snapping Turtle in this picture. The 30 to 40 eggs she’ll probably lay look like ping pong balls, only slightly smaller. As each egg is laid, she moves her front foot back to meet the egg, in what looks like an effort to ease it gently down into the pile of eggs below. When finished, she will bury the eggs and return to her pond. In three or four months, the eggs will hatch, and usually the young turtles emerge and head for the nearest pond (sometimes they overwinter underground). The sex of the turtle that hatches from each egg is determined by the temperature the egg was while it was incubating underground.

10 responses

  1. Penny March (ex VINS bander)

    Are they like alligators? Cooler nest temps = females, warmer=males? In those reptiles there seems to be about a 7 degree span that can turn out either sex.

    June 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    • Hi Penny,
      It’s not quite that simple with snappers. Certain temperatures produce a certain sex. For instance, eggs incubated at 58 degrees F. hatch out females. At 73 F. they are males. At 77 F. they are females. There are all kinds of factors, such as the length of time the eggs take to reach certain temperatures, their temperature at a certain time of development, etc.that influence turtle gender.

      June 11, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      • That is amazing and fascinating!

        June 11, 2013 at 11:30 pm

  2. I got to see a female snapper laying eggs last Sunday. She was dreadfully close to the road. Also, there were three scrapes nearby. Are all the eggs laid together or did she distribute them among three nests–or did she decide to abandon other scrapes for one reason or another?

    June 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    • Snapping turtles often dig more than one hole, but only lay their eggs in one of them. Herpetologists believe this is an attempt to fool predators, but it sadly doesn’t work for a vast majority of turtle eggs.

      June 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm

  3. Margo Nutt

    You get the most amazing photographs!!

    June 11, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    • Thank you, Margo. Some people think I’m nuts to put myself in the position some of them require me to be in!

      June 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm

  4. Elizabeth

    I love the euphemistic, “you are looking between the front and hind legs”

    June 11, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    • Ann Brine

      We had some eggs laid in our yard last week. Is there anything that I can do to protect them?

      June 24, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      • You can stake chicken wire over or around the area where the nest is, so that raccoons, etc. can’t dig them up, but the young turtles can get out. Look for them in September!

        June 24, 2014 at 7:48 pm

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