Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Caller Says #2, Turtles

Last June someone called to report that a turtle laid eggs in their yard. They have a 2 year old daughter who plays in the yard and wondered what they should do.

Initially, the turtle was left alone; it wasn’t until it had been there for over an hour that they realized what it was doing and contacted the Center for answers.

Once the turtle lays her eggs and buries them, she leaves and does not come back to the nest. Depending on the species and soil temperatures, the babies should hatch in 60-90 days. Once the babies hatch they leave to head to the nearest water. People often ask, but we don’t recommend moving the eggs. Once laid, the embryo soon attaches to the egg and can be killed by disturbing the egg, unlike birds that often turn their eggs during incubation. Leaving mom be to lay her eggs and leave is the best policy.

Calls about turtles can start as early as April or May, and can continue through to August and even into September as the babies begin hatching. Once hatched, they will come to the surface and instinctively make their way to water; often en mass. We will get a great many calls during the hatching period from individuals wondering what to do when faced with this amazing site. Unfortunately we receive a number of calls after this period, and throughout the year, from individuals who took one or more of these babies in thinking they needed assistance. Once these animals begin to get sick or go dormant from poor nutrition we have a lot of work to do to get them back to health. Even with the proper diet they need to be evaluated by a professional to ensure they are healthy as well as psychologically able to survive in the wild before being re-released.

If you see the babies hatching, resist the temptation to take them in. If you can gather them up and immediately take them to the nearest body of water, this gives them a big head start.

Turtles populations all over the country are diminishing, even the more common species. Just hatched turtles like to ones we’re talking about today are always going to face huge obstacles to survival, but turtles are very slow to mature. Turtles that make it to the age of reproduction however, can reproduce for many years which is why they have been able to survive. Human over the past 50 years have increased the death of adult turtles in recent years which means that each year there are fewer and fewer of them reproducing. For more information about turtles in Wisconsin visit:

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