A Snapping Turtle Rookery

Wildlife / Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

Snapping Turtles aren’t known to lay their eggs alongside other turtles of their kind as Green, Loggerhead and other types of sea turtles do. But, in the past week, three different Snapping Turtles laid their eggs in our patio. As my initial Snapping Turtle blog states, we have had a nest in our yard for the past twelve years — but never three in one year. And two of the turtles have laid their eggs right next to each other. Our patio has turned into a Snapping Turtle rookery!

Tornados hit our area, and our yard, a couple of weeks ago. The six Great Blue Heron nests in the wetlands behind our house were destroyed, leaving no signs of the nests, or the eggs that the birds were sitting on daily. Three of the pairs have returned to the tree to rebuild their nests and, hopefully, successfully raise their young.

Many mature White and Red Oak Trees were uprooted, or snapped in two, which completely changed our back woods. The path to the wetlands now is impassable with these large trees laying across the path and branches hanging precariously from broken trees. We thought it might deter a turtle from making her way to the patio which she has done the last few years. Obviously, the downed trees have not been a problem for these reptiles.

A before and after view
A before and after view of our backyard following the severe storms from a couple of weeks ago

The back left quadrant of our patio has been a favorite nesting area of the Snapping Turtles for several years now. After the turtle leaves I mark, and help protect the site, with wire mesh that we use to protect plants from rabbits and other critters. Two days after I placed it on the first turtles nest I woke to see another turtle laying her eggs inches away from it. In fact, the turtle was leaning up against the wire mesh as she laid her eggs.

A Snapping Turtle lays eggs inches from where another turtle laid her eggs (protected by the wire hoop) just a couple of days earlier

This area gets plenty of sun all day, and the rocks help to keep the area warmer still. The third, smaller Snapping Turtle, chose her nesting area just above the patio in a soft, mulched area. I’ll protect that site with the wire mesh as well. The nestlings will hatch in three months with each nest hatching 30-40 turtles. The she-turtles never return to the nests yet they seem to know that this has been, and continues to be, a safe nesting spot.

This patio, which we enjoy so much during the year, has become of all things a Snapping Turtle rookery. We’ll keep an eye out in late August for the newly hatched turtles. We know only a small percentage will make it to adulthood, but, it’s nice to know our yard plays a part in their life cycle.