We went to turn our horses out this morning. We cut through our ring to get to one of the fields, and I could see what looked like a giant pile of manure in the ring...but it was a mama turtle who had dug a whole (down through the stone dust base) and was beginning to lay a whole slew of eggs. The process was fascinating--my son and niece loved it...but from the perspective of our ring, it is distressing!!
Can anyone advise me on what to do? At this point, we have marked where the nest is. Should we dig it up and attempt to relocate the eggs? I have read that they are very delicate and should not be moved, as it can damage the growing turtle... We are total softies, and the thought of just getting rid of the eggs makes me sad. On the other hand, I don't think it makes sense to leave them there to hatch with a section blocked off.
I am also really worried that this might become a yearly occurance. I am a bit of a footing freak/snob and the fact that this turtle dug through my base has me feeling a bit crazy!
I had a snapping turtle lay eggs in my barnyard last summer. I really like turtles, so I made a note of the precise location, checked on wikipedia for about how long the eggs would incubate, made sure no horses trompled on it, and waited....
Right smack when wikipedia said, I was sweeping the nearby barn aisle and saw one of my chickens run by with something in its mouth that I thought was a piece of hoof trimming. Whoops, it was an unharmed baby turtle! I went over to the location, and from a tiny hole, all these little turtle hatchlings were emerging. I collected them as they each hatched, warmed up, and came out -- 18 in all. I played with them and made some videos, and then carried them out to the wetlands at the back of my farm and released them. They would have had to dodge my nine geldings to get to the closest water (they tend to want to move downhill and toward water). Friend who is a wildlife vet said I did good.
I do not know about moving the eggs, I suspect it is not great to jostle them (the mama turtle obviously doesn't turn them, like a chicken does). If you can stand to leave the area staked or maybe coned off (don't put a cone directly over it, as it needs the sun, but maybe a little cone on either side), your son will be elated if he can watch them emerge. Of course, as it gets closer to hatching time, you'll need to check the arena for tiny moving rocks! But it would be really cool.
Mama's instinct is to go uphill from her home and to find a sandy area. I haven't had prior turtles in my barnyard, but this will only be my fourth summer here.
I will find a link to a page where I posted some baby hatchling pictures....
Does mama just leave them there, or does she traipse back-and-forth to the nest as they incubate? That will be a pain.
If it was me I'd just cone off the area and try to keep any dogs from going out and digging them up. Then keep an eye out for when the little manure balls start wandering out so you don't ride over them!
As Peter, Paul, and Mary say, a dragon lives forever.
Scroll down, this website has good information on moving nests. Too much movement or eggs rolling will kill the baby turtles, but, most turtle eggs are stuck together pretty good, if you are careful you could probably move them with minimal damage.
My parents would tell me horror stories about them, which I think now was to make double sure that I never went near our pond. Let me tell you, it worked.
My best friend did her MS on turtles. She told me most of the eggs get eaten by raccoon or the like pretty quickly. Sometimes the egg hungry critter will just sit there and eat them as they come out, nothing turtle can do. In the case of most turtles, this image makes me a bit sad for egg layer, but with snappers I would cheer on the devouring
Your arena footing is probably the most awesome substrate they have ever found for burying.
I vote for working around them until they hatch. Turtles are up against SO much in their lives right now... to even reach an age when they can lay eggs is a miracle- to destroy the slim chance that any of these hatchlings will ever carry on- in order to reclaim a square yard of sand from thousands. Unless you have a high intensity use place where you are booked up with shows etc... I'd work around it. And yes- I understand that you spent a LOT of money to build that beautiful arena- which also happens to be ideal turtle nesting.
Last summer I saw a painted turtle trying to scratch a hole in baked hard clay out in one of my pastures- and I SO wish that I had the funds to build a little sand trap (very golf course don't you think?) for my turtles to use as their hatchery.. if only I could send them all a memo: "Dear turtles- 100 feet from the east shore of the pond...") .
I found two in my garden laying in the mulch and I have found them near the arena but not in it yet. I just leave them alone and try to keep everyone off the area until they hatch. The odds are so against them to reach the water and survive, it doesn't seem like too much to me to give nature a chance.
Put Pylons around them until they hatch. Like we do with the silly Killdeers that always make a little rock nest in the middle of the Arena. Also the horses never seem to step on them in the pasture.
I have seen snappers lay in sandy areas by an old barn I was at. Mom lays and covers and leaves.
I try to give everything a chance. I live on a river and a very wooded area with a small swamp across the street, you cannot imagine how many times I stop my car and run to pick up a goofy painted turtle who is crossing the street to get to the OTHER swamp.
Ermmm, not sure why someone has crazy snapping turtle hatred, strange sadism -- I work alongside them all the time, they are completely benign and fascinating to watch. Also, baby snapping turtles are FREAKING ADORABLE! They hiss and open their tiny mouths, "Imma snap youuuu!" while being about the size of a quarter, LOL.
Turtle eggs are indeed delicate, temperature and orientation sensitive, and very difficult to move successfully. I totally understand footing concerns, I am the same way! But given that she has already dug the nest, I would let it hatch out. I put rocks with flagging tape around such things to circle the location. Once they have hatched (which would be super neat to see them emerge!) you can fill in that area.
As far as nesting site fidelity and return visits, mom is gone for the year, babies are on their own. Most inland turtles are opportunistic nesters so she just crawled up till it felt right and it is probably unlikely that she would return. However, you could very easily prevent turtle passage during nesting season but just putting up a temporary barrier around the arena or perhaps even just two or three sides depending on its orientation to reptile traffic. You can read about the simple concept of drift fences here: http://www.snomnh.ou.edu/collections...ogy/blog/?p=52 They don't have to be very high, turtles are not exceptional climbers, LOL.
All growing up we had a turtle that would lay her eggs in our outdoor ring. My trainer would block the area off and threaten us kids to keep away from it. We just worked around that spot and once they were hatched and gone he would just remove the cones.
It really was never a problem. Kind of neat to us kids.
Well, you have all convinced me...they are staying put! Now we just will wait 2-3 months and hope we get to see the cute little buggers hatch. (I hope the nest doesn't get dug up in the meantime by a predator!) Thanks for all of your input!
Yayayayay! Take pictures! Sending a hug from the turtles - I saw a huge yellowbelly slider about to crawl into traffic on the freeway today, snifff, hard to slam on the brakes at 70 mph. Perhaps your babies will balance out the karma!
Some years ago, I had left my truck backed up to the fence to put seed in the spreader. The next morning when I went to get the truck, there was a nest of turtle eggs in the sandy dirt right against the front of one of the front tires. We slid a 2x12 under the truck behind the front tires, used a floor jack on each side to jack the front of the truck up with the jack wheels on the board, and pulled the front of the truck sideways away from the eggs with the tractor. After a little pulling forward and backing up, I was able to avoid running over the eggs with the back tires. Something got them the next night.
We have painted turtles and they are nesting heavily right now on the side of the roads. I did spot two nesting in my neighbor's arena and several nesting in other neighbors' gravel drives. I love this time of year! We very rarely spot a baby turtle; usually it's dead in the road when we do. I'm glad you're giving them a chance. Where are you located OP?