Alerted to its presence by Dale (Facilities), I took a detour in my weekly bluebird nest box inspection Tuesday and hightailed it up to the summer camp outdoor classrooms to see if the yellow-bellied slider he reported was still there. Dale said that she was in the middle of laying eggs and I wanted to first, see who she was (I mark the nesting turtles here at the Museum), and then confirm she was indeed laying eggs.
When I arrived, the turtle was most definitely engaged in depositing fresh white eggs in a newly dug hole next to the outdoor classrooms. There were already eggs in the hole and she laid four more while I stood watching.
This female was marked in May of 2013 after she had laid eggs in front of the vending area in Catch the Wind. I ran into her again this past May while she dug a nest hole near the Train Tunnel.
I don’t know for sure if she actually laid eggs, or how many, at the Train Tunnel that day since I left her to her duties once I determined who she was. It seems likely that she did lay at that time. I went back to the site the next day and she had covered up the nest hole. She wouldn’t have covered it had she not laid eggs.
I don’t have much hope for these eggs to hatch given the site this turtle chose to lay them. There are numerous nest holes surrounding her nest, all were dug up, the eggs eaten. Perhaps her young will be lucky and the nest will go unnoticed by the raccoons and opossums that roam the grounds at night.
If you happen upon an aquatic turtle in the midst of digging a nest in which to lay eggs, she may abandon the nest due to the disturbance. If she’s already engaged in the laying process, she’s committed and will probably keep laying. I don’t advise, though, sticking around longer than you have to while she does so. It’s no doubt stressful for the turtle to have someone watching her lay eggs, and the scent (human scent) left at the scene may attract predators later in the day or later that night. Most predators and scavengers like raccoons, opossum, fox, and coyote are well aware of our proclivity for leaving food scraps wherever we go.