What’s In My Backyard?

Lake Friends: Painted Turtle

For the introduction to this series, see here

Here is a young painted turtle. He has some dirt stuck to him as he just popped out of an underground nest. He was found walking across a trail at a local living history museum. I put him in the pond next to the museum. If you find a little turtle in a dangerous situation (on a road or trail where he could be killed), put him in the nearest pond.

Adult female painted turtles crawl out of ponds in early summer to lay eggs. They dig a nest cavity with their strong rear feet, lay a clutch of eggs in the hole, and cover it up. The baby turtles hatch after around 80 days. At this point, it is late summer or early fall. The little turtles now face a choice. They can either dig out as soon as they hatch and head for the nearest pond or spend the fall and winter in the nest and pop out in the spring. The one I found must have spent the winter hibernating in his nest cavity since I found him in June. Why turtles stay in their nests over winter or pop out early is not well understood.

Look for turtles of all sizes on your local ponds this summer!

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