Snapping turtles spend most of their lives in water but lay their eggs on land. When it is time to lay eggs, mother turtles climb ashore, build a nest, and lay the eggs. After the eggs are laid, they bury them in the sand to end their parenting responsibilities. Female snapping turtles do not stick around to keep the eggs safe. So, if you come across an abandoned turtle nest, how to take care of snapping turtle eggs?
If the snapping turtle’s egg nest is in a safe place, you can build a cage around it and leave the eggs alone. However, if the nest is in an unsafe space, it’s best to move them. You will need to set up an incubator elsewhere and move the eggs into it. Then, wait for 90 days for the eggs to hatch.
Let’s talk about snapping turtle eggs in greater detail now.
When Do Snapping Turtles Lay Their Eggs?
Snapping turtles are aggressive creatures. They get into brawls with other animals, including other snapping turtles, and injure their opponents. The only time these animals are friendly is during mating season.
Snapping turtles will usually mate between April and October. The courtship happens in water and appears to be very aggressive.
Interestingly, a single mating session allows a female snapping turtle to produce two to three batches of eggs. She will be ready to lay the first clutch of eggs within three to six weeks of being fertilized.
When the female is ready to lay her eggs, she leaves the water and searches for a sandy spot. Once she locates the right place, she starts digging a nest.
The turtle uses her hind legs to scoop out the earth and make a flask-shaped hole. When the nest is ready, she lays her eggs. Snapping turtle eggs look like ping-pong balls.
The turtle can take several hours to lay all the eggs. She may also take short breaks during the process.
Once she has laid all the eggs, the mother will throw sand over them till the nest is fully covered. She usually does not return to the water immediately but rests for a few hours. Once she feels energetic, she returns to her abode in the water.
A female will lay twenty or more eggs in a single batch. Not all these eggs will be viable. Predators will destroy some. So, a large batch increases the chances of at least a few of them hatching.
Recommended Further Reading:
- What Happens To Turtles When They Die? (The Actual Facts)
- Do Pet Turtles Hibernate? – The Actual Facts About Turtle Hibernation
- Why Do Barnacles Attach To Turtles? Can You Remove Barnacles?
How Long Do Snapping Turtle Eggs Take To Hatch?
Environmental conditions affect the hatching time of snapping turtle eggs. It usually takes between 80 to 90 days for the eggs to hatch. Eggs that do not hatch within this time are usually not viable.
The incubation temperature determines the sex of the offspring. Nests at lower temperatures yield females, while those at higher temperatures produce male snapping turtles.
How To Protect Snapping Turtle Eggs?
Snapping turtles are efficient at finding good spots for their eggs. Females travel a mile or more away from the water in search of safe spots to build their nests.
Mothers will scrutinize the vicinity to confirm the suitability of the spot before laying eggs. They will also bury deep holes to conceal the eggs properly.
Nonetheless, the eggs are left to fend for themselves once the mother returns. Predators may discover the nest and destroy the eggs. Animals like raccoons, coyotes, mongooses, and feral dogs are notorious for unearthing turtle nests and destroying the eggs.
If your property is near a water source, you may discover a snapping turtle nest in your backyard or garden when you dig the soil. You can save the eggs and prevent them from harm by leaving them undisturbed or moving them to a safe spot based on the situation.
Related Further Reading:
- Do Turtles Get Lonely, Depressed, Bored, Or Have Feelings?
- Where Do Painted Turtles Live? (In The Wild, US, Canada, Etc.)
- Why Do Turtles Hiss? (Cause And Cure)
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Leave The Nest Undisturbed
The chances are that you will uncover the nest while digging up the earth. The best thing to do in this case is to gently throw the dirt back over the eggs and leave them. Unless you dislodged the eggs or turned them around, they will continue to develop.
To protect the nest from other intruders, you can also mark the area and set up a barrier. Build a cage around it so that other people or animals do not accidentally trample over the nest.
You can use sticks, mesh, or barbed wire for it. Cover all four sides properly to keep animals out. Keep the top open so you can see the hatchlings when they arrive.
You can plant marigolds or other plants that ward off insects and stray animals around the fencing.
The eggs will begin hatching into little ones after eighty days. Soon after an egg hatches, you can expect the rest to follow. All the hatchlings should be out of their eggs in a day or two after the first one arrives. Due to the confines of the fence, the baby turtles will be unable to move out and explore their surroundings.
Once you release them, they will find their way towards the nearest water body. Nonetheless, it is a good idea to wait for a rainy evening to release the baby turtles. It will improve their chances of getting to their destination safely.
Moving The Eggs
Snapping turtle eggs have the best chance of hatching when left untouched.
However, you may accidentally dig up a nest if it is in the middle of your yard. In this case, you may have to move the eggs to a safe spot.
Interesting Further Reading:
- Can Pet Turtles Drown? – Here’s Everything That You Should Know
- Can Turtles Hear? (On Land, Underwater, And Music)
- Can Pet Turtles Live With Fish? – Here’s Everything That We Found
How To Move Snapping Turtle Eggs?
Now, one of the biggest risks of moving a snapping turtle egg is killing the embryo by turning the egg upside down. To prevent this from happening, mark the tops of all eggs before moving them.
Hold them upright during the transfer and ensure that the marks face upwards while storing and placing them.
To minimize handling the eggs, set up an incubator before moving the eggs. You can either buy an incubator or make one yourself. To replicate the conditions of their original nest, consider using ingredients like peat moss, vermiculite, and straw that stay moist.
Once the incubator is ready, you can take the eggs out of the original nest. The eggs are very delicate, and any sudden or rough movements can damage the embryo. So, be very careful when digging them out.
You can use a paintbrush to gently move the soil surrounding the eggs. Then, scoop the eggs out with a spoon and immediately transfer them into the incubator. Take special care to place them right side up.
While storing the eggs, maintain the right temperature. Turtle eggs will spoil at temperatures above 95°F. Try to maintain the surrounding temperature at 84°F, and the eggs should be fine.
As the baby turtles develop, they feed on the eggshell. So, the shell will become soft and delicate as time progresses.
Studies suggest that the hatchlings in a nest communicate with each other before breaking out. They synchronize their time of appearance to improve their chances of survival. So, once an egg hatches, the rest will follow quickly.
Even after the hatchlings appear, they will stay in the eggshell for a few days. They wait till they absorb the egg yolk sack attached to their stomachs to leave the shell. You can release them into the wild once they leave their shells.