Outdoors Journal: June is turtles' birthing time

  • Article by: JIM GILBERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 11, 2009 - 7:47 PM

The month of June is egg laying time for Minnesota's eight turtle species. At this time females become gravid (swollen with eggs) and each will seek a proper place on land to dig a hole in which to lay their eggs. The location chosen is usually in an open area because warmth from the sun is important for the development of the young in their eggs. The choice of place is made with care so turtles will often travel long distances from water to find a suitable spot.


Each female turtle uses her hind feet to dig out a hole as deep as her feet can reach. After the eggs are laid, she covers them with soil. When the job is done the turtle departs. She plays no further role in the future life of the eggs or the baby turtles when they hatch. The two most common turtle species in Minnesota, the snapping turtle and the painted turtle, lay about 20 to 40 eggs, or four to 10 eggs, respectively, at a rate of about two per minute.

The time it takes for bird eggs to hatch is quite exact (for example, northern cardinal eggs hatch in 12 to 13 days), for they are kept warm by the warm-blooded parent. Turtles are cold-blooded and so cannot provide warmth for the eggs. The warmth turtle eggs receive comes from the surrounding earth, heated by sunlight and the local weather, so the hatching time can vary. Three months or more can pass before they hatch.


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