NESTING SEASON (Mid-May to Mid-July)
The following are ‘TURTLE‘ related notes we have assembled that we hope you will find useful and informative this nesting season and thereafter.
NESTING: The turtles typically nest mid-May to mid-July. June is the ‘peak’ month for nesting. During this period turtle road crossings increase significantly. Both females and males will be on the move.
Most turtle species lay eggs annually. Blanding’s turtle females have been known to lay eggs every other year and some turtles lay twice in one nesting season. A female snapping turtle for example will typically lay her eggs in early summer. Depending on when she mated, egg-laying may extend into autumn.
WHEN NESTING MAY OCCUR: Nesting activity accompanied by increased road crossings are more apt to occur …
(1) In the early mornings through to about noon. Turtles are less likely to be on the move during the afternoon if it is hot and sunny but exceptions are always possible.
(2) In the evenings as the hot afternoon temperatures begin to come down. Nesting turtles are known to sometimes use the milder evening/night temperatures and protective cover of darkness to lay their eggs.
(3) During light intermittent showers and/or after it rains ‘regardless of the time of day’ nesting activity will often increase. Rainy and humid days should put drivers on high turtle alert!
Although the rain is more inclined to encourage us indoors this is not the case for the turtles during nesting season.
There are several reasons turtle behavior aligns with the rain especially during nesting season. These include; (a) turtles are highly aquatic and increased moisture simulates an environment they are most akin to, (b) turtles feel they can move from point A to B and not dry out, (c) the rain may cause water levels to raise facilitating the turtles movements in the wetlands, especially snapping turtles , (d) the ground is softer and easier to dig a nest to lay eggs, and (e) rain will help erase most of the visual clues from the nesting site and (f) help dissipate the scent that lingers after a female has nested. All strong indicators that turtles are very much in tune with their environment and although they do not remain with the nest as do other animal species they do make choices that give the nest the best possible chance of surviving.
NESTING PROCESS: The nesting process involves the female turtle searching for her preferred nest location, digging the nest, laying the eggs, and burying the nest. Sometimes a turtle will dig in several locations looking for just the right spot. If a spot does not meet with her approval she will move on to another spot and start digging. These are known as test nests. Research and studies have deduced that at times female turtles dig a series of tests nests before digging the actual nest they will lay their eggs to camouflage the real nest from predators. Depending on the species, temperature, and individual turtle nesting can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours or longer. The duration will depend on the number of eggs the turtle is laying and the individual turtle.
GIVE TURTLES SPACE: If you observe a turtle nesting give her space to ensure the nesting process is not disturbed. It is recommended that you keep at least 10 metres between you and the nesting turtle. If you have a dog with you it is best to remove your canine companion from the area. The presence of people if too close and/or a dog can be stressful for a turtle and cause her to abandon the nest without laying all her eggs or filling in the nest which could leave the eggs especially vulnerable.
When turtles have eggs, they have to expel them. If they don’t, they can get ‘egg bound,’ also known as suffering from egg retention or dystocia. It can be life threatening. A turtle disturbed while nesting may even dump her eggs into water. Fertile eggs dumped into the water will die in short order as they drown. If you find just laid turtle eggs in the water, it is recommended that you call the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre at 705-741-5000.
AFTER NESTING: After the female has finished nesting and covered her nest, observe the direction she heads. If it is her intention to cross the road please help ensure she gets safely across the road when and if it is safe for you to do so. Nesting is physically draining so a female turtle after nesting will move slower then usual, making them more vulnerable when crossing roads. If you assist a turtle across the road it is imperative to make ‘SAFETY YOUR #1 PRIORITY’ for your sake as well as the motorists counting on you to make wise and safe choices.
See our ‘How To Help A Snapping Turtle Across The Road’ post on the Think Turtle Conservation Initiative WordPress Blog for information about safely assisting turtles of all sizes across the road.
Check out our 'How To Help A Snapping Turtle Across The Road' video on YouTube.
NEST PROTECTION: If a turtle nests on your property you are allowed to install a turtle nest protector and are encouraged to do so as a contribution to species recovery efforts in you community. Should you observe a turtle nesting at the side of a road in accordance with jurisdiction bylaws, motorists safety and property ownership turtle nest protectors are ‘NOT’ permitted to be installed without specific permission to do so. Should you install a nest protector at a roadside without permission and there is an accident you could be held responsible and liable for any damage or injuries caused. We are fortunate in Ontario to be able to protect turtle nests on our property. It is an opportunity to help species at risk some provinces do not have. We ask that people focus on protecting the turtle nests that can be protected. As tough as it is not being able to protect all nests nature does have its own set of checks and balances that are to be respected and part of this is the reality that some of the turtle eggs are intended to sustain other species. Note: If looking to construct a turtle nest protector we have a PDF file available upon request at no charge with instructions and related notes.
INCUBATION PERIOD: The average incubation period for turtle nests is 60 to 90 days from the day the female turtle nested. The incubation period varies for each turtle species. In a warm year the eggs tend to develop faster but there are many factors influencing when a nest hatches out so consider this a general guideline.
INJURED TURTLES: If you find an injured turtle anywhere in Ontario please call the turtle hospital at Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC) at 705-741-5000. The OTCC is the only wildlife rehabilitation centre dedicated ‘SOLEY’ to providing medical and rehabilitative care to the turtle species native to Ontario. Once treated and rehabilitated the turtles are released back into their natural habitat at the point of origin. The OTCC provides medical care at ‘no charge’ and have turtle taxi volunteers to assist with transportation from anywhere in Ontario.
During nesting season an injured turtle no matter how bad a state the turtle appears to be in may be a female carrying eggs. Please contact the OTCC their medical team will extract the eggs and if viable the eggs would be incubated and hatchling later released at the point of origin where the mother turtle was originally located.
If you have any questions regarding this subject or other turtle related matters please do not hesitate to contact Think Turtle Conservation Initiative at 647-606-9537 (phone/text) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for looking out for species at risk!
Snapping turtle laying her eggs.