If you have a pair of mature snapping turtles, you better be ready to find a nest full of eggs. Besides, you may live near a water source in southern or southeast parts of the USA where snapping turtles are native reptiles. A gravid snapping turtle can visit your yard to build its nest. It is important to know when snapping turtles lay eggs to avoid accidently harming them.
A mature female snapping turtle lays eggs from late spring and throughout summer. The time depends on when the female turtle gets pregnant. The incubation time for snapping turtle eggs can be 75 to 90 days. Snapping turtles lay about 20 to 40 eggs per clutch.
In this article, I will tell you when and where snapping turtles lay eggs. Also, you will learn what to do when you find a snapping turtle nest in your yard or property.
When Do Snapping Turtles lay Eggs?
If you have a sexually mature female snapping turtle, you can expect to find it nesting from April to November. Alligator snapping turtles become sexually mature when they turn 10 to 13 years old. Common snapping turtles reach sexual maturity at different ages depending on their environment. It can be between 8 to 20 years.
The mating seasons for snapping turtles are spring to summer. They are most active in May and June. The male turtle chases the female snapping turtle and impregnates her. It takes about 4 to 6 weeks for the eggs to get fertilized. Moreover, female snapping turtles can carry fertile eggs for 3 years.
A female turtle lays her eggs in warmer months of the year. As we all know, turtles are cold-blooded reptiles. So, the eggs need a warmer temperature to hatch. This is why snapping turtles usually lay their eggs in late May, June, or early July when the temperature is high.
Snapping turtles lay their eggs at any time of the day. But they want to lay their eggs safely without interruption. So, morning and evening are the preferable times for the turtles to lay eggs. The temperature during these times is not too cool or warm, which is perfect for the turtles.
Where Do Snapping Turtles Lay Eggs?
Snapping turtles are aquatic turtles. Naturally, they spend most of their life in water. They live in slow-moving water bodies like creeks, marshes, swamps, lakes, rivers, bogs, and streams. They often burrow themselves in soft mud or sand at the bottom of the water body. Although they mostly live in water, they come to land for mating and lay eggs once a year.
Aquatic turtles can breathe in oxygen for a few minutes and spend a long time underwater. But the eggs need oxygen constantly to stay viable. Therefore, they do not lay their eggs in the water. Besides, the eggs need a stable temperature to hatch. So, burying the eggs under the soil is crucial for the eggs.
The gravid snapping turtle search for a suitable nesting place. They look for a spot with soft soil or sand. The area has to be surrounded by plants to keep the nest covered, but sunlight should also reach the nest.
The substrates must be deep enough to bury the eggs away from predatory eyes. The concerned snapping turtle often buries the eggs 4 to 7 inches deep in the nest.
So, the turtles often choose the bank near their water abode. But if they do not find the banks safe, they can search for a nesting spot even about a mile away from their habitat.
Hence, it is common to see snapping turtles visiting localities in search of a nesting area. Do not be surprised if you see a snapping turtle sneaking into your yard and building her nest. Freshly dug gardens are also their favourite spot, as it is easy to dig the soil for the nest.
Snapping turtles use their hind claws to dig the nest. If they find the soil hard to dig, they urinate on the spot to make the soil softer. They lay so many eggs that it can take several hours for the snapping turtles to lay eggs in the nest.
After laying eggs, the turtle covers the eggs with soil and debris. It uses the hind legs again to do that. They cover the nests well to keep the eggs secure.
Turtles do not linger around after laying eggs. Like any other turtle, it is natural for snapping turtles to the eggs and return to their habitat.
Do Snapping Turtles Lay Eggs In The Same Place?
Evidence shows that snapping turtles lay their eggs in the same place every year. Snapping turtles choose the nesting area after close inspection and lay eggs only when they are sure the eggs have a maximum chance of hatching there.
Some scientists believe that snapping turtles often choose nest areas similar to the nests they hatched from. However, they may return to the same nesting spot because the area has the right conditions for hatching eggs. This way, they do not have to search for another nesting site.
How Many Eggs Does A Snapping Turtle Lay Every Year
Every year, a mature female snapping turtle lays only one clutch. But the clutch contains 20 to 40 round creamy soft shell eggs. Some nests can even contain up to 80 eggs! How many eggs a female snapping turtle can lay depends on its size. After all, the snapping turtles carry the eggs in their shell. The larger the snapping turtle is, the more eggs it will produce.
After laying the eggs and covering them up in the nest, the female turtle will return to its aquatic habitat. Thus, the eggs are left alone.
Despite producing a large number of eggs, the number of surviving snapping turtle hatchlings is comparatively low. Snapping turtle nests are often targeted by animals like raccoons, dogs, foxes, snakes, skunks, and predatory birds.
According to surveys, about 70 to 90 percent of snapping turtle nests are destroyed annually. Therefore, snapping turtles have to lay quite a high number of eggs to make sure at least some of their offspring can survive.
How Big Are Snapping Turtle Eggs?
The snapping turtle eggs look like ping-pong balls, both in shape and size. The eggs have creamy white soft shells. Each egg has a diameter of 40 millimetres (1.57 inches). The shape and size make it easier for the snapping turtles to have so many eggs. But the soft shells and size make the eggs vulnerable to predators.
When Do Snapping Turtle Eggs Hatch?
The snapping turtle babies take about 75 to 90 days to hatch. The timing of hatching depends on the temperature and other environmental factors. For more discussion, check out my article on how long does it take for snapping turtle eggs to hatch.
The hatchlings use their small egg tooth to break out of the eggs shells. They might emerge together from the nest on the same day or take a few days separately.
These snapping turtle hatchlings do not have hard shells like adult snapping turtles. Their tiny shells are soft and vulnerable. So, many baby snapping turtles get killed by predatory animals while trying to reach the nearest water source.
The temperature of the incubation period determines the sex of snapping turtle hatchlings. If the temperature remains 73 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (23 to 27 Degrees Celsius), the hatchling will be male. Slightly above that temperature will produce mixed gender hatchlings. If the temperature goes above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius), the hatchlings will be female.
What to Do If a Snapping Turtle Lays Eggs In Your Yard
The natural habitats of snapping turtles are decreasing day by day. The same goes for the suitable nesting spots for mother snapping turtles. Hence, the turtles cannot help moving far from their habitats in search of a nesting spot. They may enter locality and invade human properties like yards and gardens to lay eggs.
If you live near a water habitat of snapping turtles, there is a high chance snapping turtles will visit your yard. So, what if you find a snapping turtle laying eggs in your yard, or you find a nest?
If you find a snapping turtle laying eggs, do not disturb it. You can call the Animal Control service near you to remove the turtle and the nest from your property. Or, you can just let the turtle lay eggs and leave. You can deal with the nest later.
Do not try to remove the snapping turtle if you do not know how to. Snapping turtles are aggressive turtles. They can bite quite hard, hence they are called snapping turtles.
Now, what if you find a nest full of snapping turtle eggs? In that case, here are the options you can consider:
Leave the Nest Alone
If the nest is not on your way, you can leave it as it is and let nature take its course. Eventually, the turtles will hatch and find their way to the nearest water source. You can call animal control if you do not want the nest in your yard.
Protect the Nest
Snapping turtles are reducing in number like many other species of animals. So, you may want to protect the eggs from getting destroyed or eaten by other animals.
You can put up a fence, wired mesh, or a cage around the nest. Wait up to 90 days for the eggs to hatch. Once the eggs hatch, remove the barriers to let the baby snapping turtles move to a water source.
Also, avoid applying fertilizers or pesticides around the nesting area until the baby turtles hatch and leave. These chemicals are dangerous for turtles.
Move the Snapping Turtle Eggs
You might accidentally dig up the nest, or you do not want the eggs to stay where it is. In such a situation, you can remove the eggs to a safe spot. The people from Animal Control can take responsibility.
However, if you cannot reach Animal Control in your area, you can move the eggs. You can use an artificial incubator, or a homemade incubator to hatch the snapping turtle eggs. When you move the eggs, make sure you do not shake them or change their natural orientation. Otherwise, the embryos inside the eggs can die.
By now, you should know when to expect snapping turtles to lay eggs. Most snapping turtles lay their eggs in May, June and July. Some turtles may even lay during autumn. During this time, you can prepare a nesting box or area for your pet snapping turtle or wild snapping turtle to help them lay eggs. About 80 to 90 days later, you might be lucky to see baby snappers coming out of their nest.
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