An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide –

Wood Turtle

Wood Turtles Laying Eggs

This Wood Turtle is climbing up a sandy hill in order to find a high elevation site in which to lay her eggs, one where the soil temperature is just right and where flooding is not likely to occur. 

Twice a year, in the spring and fall, Wood Turtles engage in a mating ritual that involves both turtles “dancing” with each other prior to copulating in the water.  Once mating has occurred, the female seeks out a suitable habitat in which to lay her 3-20 eggs, usually near a stream.  Once the nest cavity has been dug, the eggs laid, and the cavity filled with dirt and/or leaves, the female departs, never to provide care for her young.  The eggs hatch and the hatchlings emerge from the nest sometime between August and October.  Unlike most turtles, the sex of the hatchlings is determined genetically and not by the temperature of the eggs.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to  and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Mystery Photo I.D. – Leeches feeding on the blood of a Snapping Turtle

IMG_1812Leeches are segmented worms (annnelids) which feed predominantly on blood, although some species do eat insects. Of the 700 species of leeches, 500 inhabit fresh water, as opposed to salt water or land. Blood-sucking leeches are common parasites of many freshwater vertebrates including turtles, amphibians and fish.

Generally speaking, leeches of the genus Placobdella are commonly found on turtles. Bottom-dwelling species such as the Common Snapping Turtle, Mud Turtle and Musk Turtle usually have more leeches than other turtles, and they are often attached to the skin at the limb sockets. Aerially-basking species such as Painted Turtles often have fewer of these parasites, possibly because basking forces leeches to detach in order to avoid desiccation.

A leech can ingest several times its weight in blood from one host before dropping off and not feeding again for weeks, or even months. Leeches inject hirudin, an anesthetic, to keep the hosts from feeling them break the skin. They also inject an anticoagulant to keep the blood from clotting so that they can feed. Although leeches (especially large ones) can be a significant health detriment to smaller animals, they are not harmful to most large animals, such as Snapping Turtles.

Some of the most common predators of leeches include turtles, fish, ducks, and other birds. Map Turtles allow Common Grackles to land in basking areas and peck at leeches clinging to their skin, and minnows have been seen cleaning leeches from Wood Turtles in the water. At times turtles bury themselves in ant mounds to rid themselves of these pesky parasites.

For those readers who may hesitate before going into a leech-laden pond, it may be comforting to know that leeches are mainly nocturnal. (Photo by Jeannie Killam)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to and click on the yellow “donate” button.


Wood Turtles Becoming Active & Mating

5-7-15 wood turtle  088After spending the winter hibernating in small streams and rivers, Wood Turtles awaken, become more active, mate (usually in shallow water), and eventually leave the water to begin foraging for food. Summer is spent mostly on land, traveling along streams — rarely do Wood Turtles stray farther than 1,000 feet from the water. In a few weeks, females will deposit between four and twelve eggs in a nest they dig in sandy soil.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to and click on the yellow “donate” button.