As I reported at the time, I was able to observe a Snapping Turtle lay and bury eggs in the ground near a bench in Eliza Howell Park in June this year (“Snapping Turtle Lays Eggs,” June 15, 2022).
Ever since, I have been keeping an eye on the spot. According to published reports, many Snapping Turtle nests are preyed upon by predators such as raccoons and skunks. The ground covering this nest has remained undisturbed since June, suggesting that incubation was proceeding on schedule.
I have also been keeping an eye on the calendar. Typically, Snapping Turtle eggs hatch approximately 80 to 90 days after laying. Starting a few days before 80 days, I have been doing a quick check in the morning, expecting that the hatchlings would emerge during the night.
Yesterday was day 80 and I could see as I approached that the ground was no longer undisturbed.
The baby turtle slowly emerging was dirt-covered and appeared to be a little less than 2 inches long. The size of the hole suggested that other hatchlings had preceded it to the surface.
During the 30 or more minutes that I was watching, I did not see any more newly hatched turtles emerge from the ground, but there were a few others walking through the grasses and wildflowers. I may have arrived just as the last one was leaving the nest.
Adult Snapping Turtles, with their large hard shells, are at low risk of predation and often live for decades. Baby Snapping Turtles, however, have soft shells, a non÷threatening snap, and are very vulnerable to being eaten by mammals, birds, or snakes as they move slowly toward water. And when they reach water, they might be preyed upon by fish or other turtles. The majority reportedly do not survive the first year.
I don’t know how many Snapping Turtle eggs there were in this nest or how many hatched beyond the few observed. Nor do I expect to know what happens next to these little reptiles. The last I saw they were moving slowly but steadily toward whatever their future will be.
This has been a first ever experience for me, to observe both the egg laying and the hatchlings. Repeated visits continue to reveal more of the natural wonders of Eliza Howell Park.