A few years back, around May-June, I spotted a beast snapping turtle in my backyard. I was a bit surprised at first, but then, the calendar wiped away my doubts. May-June is the time of the year when female snapping turtles start looking for a suitable place to lay their eggs. And I am sure the snapping turtle I noticed was on a similar mission.
The incident made me curious about the snapping turtle mating, egg-laying, and hatching process. I mean, where do these turtles lay eggs? Or, how long do snapping turtle eggs incubate?
Generally, the snapping turtles lay around 20 to 40 eggs from August through October. It takes 55 to 90 days for the snapping turtle eggs to incubate and hatch. The incubation period mostly depends on the surroundings.
Continue reading if you want to know more details on the snapping turtle’s egg incubation or reproduction.
How Long Do Snapping Turtle Eggs Incubate?
Breeding seasons of the snapping turtles last from April to November, and so do the nesting period. These turtles are usually most sexually active in the warm seasons. Soon after a successful mating, the female snapping turtles exhibit signs of carrying eggs.
Generally, the gravid snapping turtles deposit eggs from May to June, and each clutch includes 20 to 40 eggs. The usual incubation time for these eggs is 80 to 90 days. However, neither the nesting nor the incubation period is viable.
The eggs may hatch as fast as within 55 days and as late as within 90 days. Experts assume that the incubation temperature or environment may have something to do with the hatching period.
Snapping Turtle Egg Incubation And Care
In the wild, the snapping turtle eggs hatch on their own. But in captivity, leaving the eggs at the mercy of nature is not the right move. Here, the eggs and hatchlings require extra care and attention because of the environmental differences.
You will notice a change in the gravid snapping turtle’s behavior as the nesting season approaches. For example, you know snapping turtles are highly aquatic and spend most of their time swimming. But before the nesting period, the mother snapping turtles will mostly stay on the land looking for a suitable spot for depositing eggs.
Snapping turtles are the master of hiding eggs, just like any other turtle species. You know each clutch may contain 20 to 40 ping pong ball-sized creamy colored eggs. The mother turtle digs a deep hole in the ground and lays her eggs over 7 hours. After that, she will cover the hole with dirt in such a manner that you will barely find the exact spot. For this reason, experienced breeders are encouraged to attach an additional nesting box to the existing habitat.
After laying eggs, the turtle will leave the place forever. You have to wait for a couple of days before digging out the eggs from the ground.
Remember, snapping turtles bury the eggs deep to con the predators. Be careful while making your way through. You can move the loose soil with a brush and scoop out the eggs using a spoon.
After collecting the eggs, clean the dirt and mud using a paintbrush. Many experts suggest not to turn the eggs upside down as it can harm the nucleation and growth of the embryo. To avoid such risk, mark the top of each egg with a marker. Now move the eggs to an incubation medium.
While transferring the eggs, hold them upright, ensuring that the marks are faced upward. I recommend you prepare an incubator beforehand to minimize egg handling. The lesser the movement, the safer the embryo of the egg will be.
When it comes to incubators, you can either buy or build one at home. The home-built incubator works as fine as the commercial one if you know the technique. Here is the easiest way to prepare a homemade incubator for your snapping turtle eggs,
- Take a robust 5-gallon plastic container and fill it with sand, moistened vermiculite, peat moss, or sphagnum moss. Many experts discourage using sand as the incubator substrate as it is not good with oxygen circulation.
- You know, for incubation of the snapping turtle eggs, you would require a moist environment. To achieve the humidity in the dry sand, pour lukewarm water into it. But make sure the sand is not overflowing with water.
- Dig a thermometer 1 inches deep into the damp sand.
- Now manage either a 10-gallon plastic container or aquarium and place the 5-gallon sandbox inside it.
- Pour lukewarm water into the 10-gallon container and make sure the water level crosses the sand line of the 5-gallon tank.
- Before filling the tank with water, you should install a low-intensity heater inside the 10-gallon container.
- Set up a second thermometer in the 10-gallon tank and power on the water heater.
- Select a Plexiglas large enough to cover the tanks and then drill 6 to 8 holes in it, each of around ¼ inches. Place the sheet over the containers.
- Keep the whole setup powered on for days and note the temperature change. The incubation temperature for snapping turtle eggs ranges from 68 degrees Fahrenheit to 86 Degrees Fahrenheit. When you think the containers are regulating in that temperature zone, place the eggs in the sand.
- Bury the eggs halfway in the substrate. The marking on the eggs should be exposed and facing upwards.
- Continue monitoring the eggs and temperature. If you face any trouble or confusion, consult an expert.
Temperature and humidity both play crucial roles in healthy embryo development. All the arrangements of tank heater and additional water are managed to maintain the suitable incubation temperature for the snapping turtle eggs.
Generally, temperatures between 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit promises successful hatching of the eggs. A temperature above 95 degrees Fahrenheit can damage the embryos. Besides the moderate temperature, a high humid surrounding is also mandatory.
Do you know the temperature of the incubator decides the snapping turtle hatchling’s gender? Find out in the next section.
Does Incubation Temperature Affect Gender In Turtles?
It might sound surprising, but incubation temperature actually determines the gender of the unborn snapping turtle hatchling. Temperature can affect embryo development at a particular stage. Thus, the whole thing happens.
Sex determination of the snapping turtle eggs by controlling temperature has opened opportunities for the breeders. They can breed as per the demand.
According to sources, a lower temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit produces female snapping turtle hatchlings. On the other hand, high temperatures around 73 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit are perfect for males. The in-between temperatures will yield both males and females.
Snapping Turtle Hatchling Care
After 2 to 3 months, generally from August to October, the embryos will experience growth. Around those months, the snapping turtle eggs hatch, and the babies come out by breaking the shell with their egg teeth. The babies are out in a day or two after the first hatchling cracks out of the egg.
The snapping turtle hatchlings head towards the nearest water body right after digging out of the nest. But in an artificial incubation, it is not possible. You have to release the babies to a water source by yourself.
Make sure the water level is not too deep for them. As the babies do not have developed lungs yet, and they can drown underwater in no time. Apart from providing a water body, focus on arranging a whole enclosure for the babies.
A baby snapping turtle is usually 2.4 to 4 inches long, and a 10-gallon aquarium is enough to accommodate one. You can house multiple hatchlings in the same enclosure by increasing the space. Build a basking dock and install UV light, heating lamp, tank heater, and water filter. Remember, each piece of equipment is a must for the hatchlings.
Ensure the baby snapping turtles a balanced diet with necessary dietary supplements. A daily feed is recommended for the healthy growth of the hatchlings. Lastly, take special care of the babies because, at the early stage, the turtles are more exposed to diseases.
When Do Snapping Turtles Mate?
The male snapping turtles become sexually active at the age of 5. On the other hand, the females gain sexual reproductivity in between 4 to 7 years. During each mating season, the male and female snapping turtles get involved in courtship. Usually, April to November are the breeding months for the snapping turtles.
In the wild, the male snapping turtles approach the females for mating. They try mounting the basking females from behind and interest them in coitus. The attraction game also goes on in the water. If the female response is positive, the couple heads towards the water body and mates in deep water.
Snapping turtle mating can take several hours, and the partners often come to the surface to breathe. However, the female turtles may attack the approaching male snapping turtles if they are not interested.
In a captive environment, breeding the snapping turtles is up to the owners. However, breeding pets without enough knowledge and experience is never recommendable. Mating can be a stressful journey for the turtles.
An interesting fact is that female snapping turtles can carry the male sperm in their bodies for years. Thus, they can lay eggs even without mating in the season. Usually, 3 to 6 weeks after a successful mating, the gravid snapping turtles deposit their egg clutch.
When Do Snapping Turtles Nest?
A gravid snapping turtle often moves from place to place in search of the perfect nesting place. Generally, moist and damp soils are great for laying eggs. Once the mother finds the spot, she digs a 4 to 7 inches deep hole and prepares the surrounding area. She will lay her eggs over several hours, and afterward, she will cover the hole with dirt and loose soil.
You can attach an additional nesting box that contains the perfect moist soil for laying eggs. It will lessen your trouble while searching for eggs. Generally, the nesting period of snapping turtles starts in early summer and may extend into the late autumn. The time frame depends on the mating period.
Snapping Turtle Eggs And Predators
Do you know among 100 snapping turtle eggs, only a few can survive to the end? According to a report, a snapping turtle would have to nest for years to replace its place. Why do you think this happens? The answer points out its fingers to the predators.
A mother snapping turtle hides her eggs with excellent techniques, and it is hard to spot the nest. But the predators like raccoons can easily locate a snapping turtle nest and make a feast on the eggs. What can you do in this matter?
If you notice snapping turtle eggs in your backyard, build a fence around it to keep the predators outside. Once the babies come out, release them to the nearest water source. If you find a disturbing snapping turtle egg on the ground, bury it 4 to 7 inches deep in the soil.
Do not move a wild nest into your home. In many states, disturbing and destroying the snapping turtle nest is illegal.
The whole incubation process is delicate and sensitive. Your slightest mistake can ruin the clutch of snapping turtle eggs. So, if you have any plans for breeding or incubating the snapping turtle eggs, contact an expert and prepare yourself for the challenge.
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