Laying Eggs

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 is in the process of laying eggs.
This female is in the process of laying eggs, note one at bottom of hole, another on the way out.


Closer look at same image.
Closer look at same image.


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.


Here, she moves one egg aside as another egg is readied for deposition. Note the square notch in here shell. That's her indentification mark.
Here, she moves one egg aside as another egg is readied for deposition. Note the square notch in her shell. That’s her identification mark.


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.

2 responses to Laying Eggs

  1. Elizabeth says:

    How do you decide which nests to ‘protect’? I would rather have more turtles than raccoons and possums!

    • Greg Dodge says:

      Since I only have one cage, the decision of which nest to protect is made by the turtles. If we witness a turtle in the process of laying, and the nest is within public view, I’ll put the cage over that nest. Although there are many nests dug in out-of-the-way places I’ll place the cage over one that can be easily viewed by the public, we want visitors here at the Museum to have an opportunity to see an active nest.

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