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Snapping Turtle Eggs Hatching

Every fall, roughly three months after they’re laid, snapping turtle eggs hatch. Like many other turtle species, the hatchlings’ gender is determined by the temperature at which the eggs were incubated during the summer. Eggs at the top of the nest are often significantly warmer than those at the bottom, resulting in all females from the top eggs, and all males from the bottom eggs. In some locations, the hatchlings emerge from the nest in hours or days, and in others, primarily in locations warmer than northern New England, they remain in the nest through the winter.

When they emerge above ground, the hatchlings, without any adult guidance, make their way to the nearest body of water, which can be up to a quarter of a mile away, and once there, seek shallow water. Eggs and snapping turtle hatchlings are extremely vulnerable to predation. Predators include, among others, larger turtles, great blue herons, crows, raccoons, skunks, foxes, bullfrogs, water snakes, and large predatory fish, such as largemouth bass.  Older and larger snapping turtles have a much easier time fending for themselves. (Photo: newborn snapper)

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11 responses

  1. Elisa Campbell

    Mary,
    do you know how a newly-emerged turtle finds the nearest body of water? do they smell the dampness?
    Elisa Cambell

    September 25, 2020 at 8:01 am

    • Hi Elisa,
      I’ve been told that no-one knows for sure but that it’s likely the young use the reflection of the pond in the sky to navigate their way to it. Again, not positive this is the case, but it well could be!

      September 25, 2020 at 10:52 am

  2. I have read that global warming threatens turtles by, among other things, causing the development of all-one-sex nests of baby turtles – I guess all females – because the temperatures in the nests are getting too high for the development of male turtles. I am also interested in Elisa’s question. I have so often found turtles (pond turtles) in the woods far from water, and wondered how they find their way back to the pond.

    September 25, 2020 at 9:28 am

    • Hi Kathie,
      Fascinating about global warming effect! If you see my response to Elisa, I believe the pond’s reflection in the sky somehow guides the young turtles, but that is not something I know definitively!

      September 25, 2020 at 10:54 am

      • p.s. Loved your comment about the slug bubble!!!

        September 25, 2020 at 10:55 am

  3. What a gorgeous photo of a somewhat ominous-looking baby!
    I’m curious about its size?

    September 25, 2020 at 10:09 am

    • Hi Dell,
      The carapace is about one inch long! Other than size, it’s a duplicate of its parents!

      September 25, 2020 at 10:50 am

      • Oh my gosh – tiny!
        And it looks so ancient…

        September 25, 2020 at 11:25 pm

  4. Laura Andrews

    We watched a snapper l
    ay her eggs, protected the nest, and watched the babies head out when they hatched. They went every direction! Some headed for the pond, some toward the road, and a couple to the garage. The ones that went toward the pond had to drop off a two-foot wall. We steered the others down an easier route.

    September 25, 2020 at 11:10 am

  5. Alice

    This past spring/early summer, daughter & grand daughter & I watched a large, tired, snapping turtle cross the field, to get back to the small pond. I think she’d probably laid her eggs, she had to take several rests, before she got there, even resting on hot asfalt. Now the pond is so low. Lots of painted turtles there. My daughter got a good video of the snapper.

    September 25, 2020 at 12:37 pm

  6. Eva Fierst

    Hello Mary I am a very happy reader of your posts. Today I want to share one of the photos and videos I made of a Praying Mantis first sitting on a plant and afterwards devouring a caterpillar. If you are interested please let me know and I will send you more. Warmly, Eva Fierst Northampton, MA

    On Fri, Sep 25, 2020 at 7:29 AM Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > > > > > > > Mary Holland posted: “Every fall, roughly three months after they’re laid, > snapping turtle eggs hatch. Like many other turtle species, the hatchlings’ > gender is determined by the temperature at which the eggs were incubated > during the summer. Eggs at the top of the nest are of” > > > >

    September 25, 2020 at 6:25 pm

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