Schooled by the Turtle in Our Front Yard

Our family set out on a walk after dinner. We laced up our shoes, opened the garage door and stepped onto the driveway. I caught sight of a misplaced rock in the mulch under our Japanese Tree Lilacs.

“Someone’s been playing in the mulch,” I was about to say. I walked closer and saw that the rock was not a rock at all.

This turtle had climbed up the steep hill, most likely after a long journey from Gilbert Lake through our forest of trees, to rest on the edge of our front yard.

Here she dug a hole in our mulch and the sand underneath to lay her eggs. We stood around the edge of the landscaped garden bed and watched from this side angle while she dropped her smaller-than-expected white eggs into the hole. She thrust her neck out just before she dropped each egg. This is the first time our family witnessed the birthing of nature this close and many of us reacted accordingly with both awe and ick.

Then Paul waved us away, “Let’s give the girl some privacy.”

So we walked along our favorite Minnesota road in the rain while she made a nest in my creeping thyme. She stayed about an hour or two, covered up the hole and disappeared back down the hill for her return to the lake.

The next day our neighbor said they had a snapping turtle trying to lay eggs on their driveway, which was soon to be covered with asphalt. Maybe when they shooed her away she came to us. Or maybe they are just plentiful in our Minnesota neighborhood right now.

I’m guessing this is a snapping turtle, too. I checked Amphibians and Reptiles of Minnesota for some clue about how many eggs she would lay, how long they would nest and what we can do :

During periods of dry weather, snappers may move overland to search for new homes. It is very common to see females moving (especially across roads) during the egg laying season in June. Females normally select sandy areas to dig nests. Riverbanks, shoulders of roads, driveways, and lawns are common sites. Females lay up to 30 eggs and covers the nest with soil when finished. The females then returns to her home. Nearly all the nests are destroyed by predators. The eggs hatch in about 50 to 60 days. Temperature during incubation determines the sex of the hatchling turtles. Lower temperatures produce mainly males and higher temperatures produce mainly females.

If you know more about what kind of turtle she is and how to protect the nest, leave us a comment.

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4 Comments

  1. David
    Jun 19, 2009

    This is a snapping turtle and to protect the nest put some type of silt fence or metal fencing around it to keep it from being dug up.

  2. Rachel Corbett
    Jun 19, 2009

    That’s cool. I remember in he Frontenac house when we had a rabbit nest in the font yard. I thought we were so lucky!

  3. Alicia Johnson
    Jun 19, 2009

    My husband had a pet snapping turtle as a pet on his mission in Pennsylvania . . . one of the members caught it for him. He thought it was the coolest pet! They kind of scare me though–they can bite off your hand :o) Good luck protecting the nest. It would be fun if they hatched!

  4. Terresa Wellborn
    Jun 19, 2009

    Where I live (NV) there are lots of desert tortoises…but highly unlikely that this is one.

    When I was a kid, we had a big turtle, once, that would come and go as she pleased in our backyard and out into the nearby desert. She had babies, once, and sadly, our dogs thought they were great snacks. We were horrified as kids finding the dead baby turtles, but it was a lesson in life, too.

    Good luck with this new, potential (?) pet. Or at least neighbor. 😉

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