The courtship of Painted Turtles begins shortly after they emerge from hibernation in April and May. It is quite an elaborate process, with the male swimming in front of the female and rapidly vibrating his long toenails along her head. Mating follows and a month or two later females look for terrestrial nesting sites, often late on a rainy afternoon.
Frequently the female will dig several “false” nests before depositing her half a dozen or so eggs in a nest. After carefully covering her eggs with soil and leaving the ground looking relatively undisturbed, she returns to her pond, providing no care for her offspring.
Painted Turtle eggs hatch in the fall. In the Northeast some young Painted Turtles emerge above ground shortly after hatching, while others remain in the nest and don’t dig their way out until the following spring. (Turtles from the same nest can emerge at different times.) Those turtles emerging in the fall usually have an egg tooth and a fresh yolk sac scar; those that overwinter and emerge in the spring lack both of these. (Thanks to Jody Crosby for photo op.)
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