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Snapping Turtle Nests Raided

7-3-17 raided snapper nest 001Female Snapping Turtles spend a lot of time and effort finding suitable sandy soil in which to dig their nest and lay their eggs. Some turtles have been found laying their eggs as far as a mile from the nearest water source. Once she has laid her eggs and covered them with soil, the female snapper returns to her pond, leaving her eggs to hatch on their own, and the hatchlings to fend for themselves.

It is estimated that as many as 80 to 90 percent of all turtle nests are destroyed by predators, weather conditions and accidental disturbances. Most of the damage is done by predators – skunks, raccoons, foxes, crows, among others. Most nests are discovered by smell, and most are raided at night. The fluid that coats the eggs, that is lost by the mother during egg laying or is lost through breaks in the eggs, produces a smell that is easily detected by predators. While a majority of nest raids happen within the first 48 hours of the eggs being laid, studies have shown that predation occurs over the entire incubation period (June – September). The pictured Snapping Turtle nest was dug up and the eggs consumed 10 days after they were laid.

If you are aware of a spot where a turtle dug a nest and laid eggs, you can try to protect the nest from predators by placing either a bottomless wire cage or an oven rack over the nest site, and putting a heavy rock on top. The tiny hatchlings will be able to escape through the openings but hopefully, if the rock is heavy enough, raccoons and skunks will become discouraged and give up trying to reach the nest.

The next Naturally Curious post will be on 7/5/17.

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10 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    Gets me thinking…some kind of heavy lobster trap, positioned over the nest, a 5 sided cage, anchored with spikes, like a tent, some kind of unharmful spray to mask that scent……but maybe not interfere with nature….too many snappers might not be a good thing. They eat waterfowl….the foodchain continues.

    June 30, 2017 at 7:59 am

  2. Jon Binhammmer

    You can protect a nest, but, knowing that snapping turtles are not endangered, you can also rest assured that the protein in those eggs is well-utilized by predators whose alternative meal might be a rarer bird’s eggs. I agree with Alice – maybe not interfere with nature, unless necessary to save a species.

    June 30, 2017 at 12:41 pm

  3. Laurie Spry

    I agree, Joe. Choosing winners and losers isn’t up to us, unless we intervene to help a species whose fate has been altered by us. I like the snappers because they eat Canada Goose goslings, but skunks eat various invertebrate ‘pests’, too….

    June 30, 2017 at 1:14 pm

  4. Snapping Turtles here in Ontario Canada are on the Endangered Species list. Most of them and other turtles are hunted by Americans who come up to our lakes in the spring and summer, people have been caught with trunk loads of snappers. So yes, they are on our Endangered Species List.

    June 30, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    • Alice Pratt

      I wonder what they do with them? I know Asians make soup from certain turtles species…the French & other countries eat tons of frog legs….☹️

      June 30, 2017 at 4:12 pm

  5. Darcy Donald

    Hi Mary! Wonderful article on predated nests! It might be helpful to mention that any wire cage or oven rack must have openings large enough for hatchlings to safely disperse and not be trapped, when they would quickly die from dehydration. Hatchlings are roughly the size of a quarter, so openings must be at least that size. Thank you! We are so grateful for all you do to educate so many about the natural world in such an engaging and informative way! Darcy Donald Groton Turtle Conservation >

    June 30, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    • Thanks, Darcy. Duly noted! I wondered if people would understand that the hatchlings would scoot out from under the oven rack, not through the slits…

      July 1, 2017 at 6:52 am

  6. Cecelia Blair

    We have plenty of snappers here. They will pull goslings and ducklings under for a meal. I would never hurt a snapper but neither will I save any, as I have in the past.

    June 30, 2017 at 11:17 pm

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