Something truly amazing is taking place behind Mother Nature’s closed doors. Animal mating is rarely seen but we all know it happens. What many don’t know is where, when and how it happens? Spring is mating season for many of our favourite species in the Credit River watershed. Let’s take a closer look to learn more. Not too close though … even animals deserve a bit of privacy. Today we’re going to look at some of the Credit’s reptiles and amphibians in particular.
Snapping turtles may be slow but after a long winter, they get right down to business. Mating season is anywhere between April and November but snapping turtles are most active in the warmer months. Males reach sexual maturity at age five and females at around age four.
Male and female snapping turtles typically begin an in-water courtship ritual where they face one another and move their heads from side to side. During intercourse, the male’s sperm doesn’t immediately fertilize the female’s eggs. It’s up to the female to make that happen. Amazingly, female turtles can plan their pregnancies. Sperm cells from the male survive in the female’s reproductive tract for up to three years. When food is plentiful and life is good she can fertilize any eggs she happens to be carrying. When the eggs are ready she leaves the water to search for a spot to lay them. Females can lay between 20 and 40 eggs, which will incubate from 75 to 95 days. Interestingly, the temperature of an egg during a critical stage of embryo development can impact the sex of the hatchling. Cooler temperatures produce more males and warmer temperatures produce more females.
Snapping turtles do not mate for life. Each spring females look to be wooed by a new suiter.
Male garter snakes have their own line of cologne they use to attract females. After male and female garters leave their winter hibernation dens, many males surround one female and begin to produce their unique and irresistible scent. The female mates with the male she thinks smells best. When the deed is done, the female finds a summer home where she will feed and decide on the best place to give birth.
Like turtles, female snakes also have the ability to store a male’s sperm until it is needed for reproduction. If a female is not attracted to a male’s scent one year, she can use stored sperm from a previous mating season to fertilize her eggs.
Common garter snakes give birth to live young. Pregnancy lasts between two and three months. Females can then give birth up to 80 baby snakes. Mother garters aren’t known to be helicopter parents. Once the babies are born, they are fully independent and must find food and shelter on their own.
Come March and early April, the local pond is the place to be if you’re a leopard frog looking for love. Any leopard frog over the age of one can mingle because this is when both males and females reach sexual maturity.
Unlike turtles, it isn’t the male’s dance moves that attract females – it’s their singing ability. Male leopard frogs use a mating call to get a female’s attention and communicate his desire to mate. Females can lay anywhere between 300 and 6,500 eggs at one time. Mothers lay eggs on the bottom of ponds or attached to underwater plants. Eggs must remain in water to survive. Leopard frogs eggs hatch within one and three weeks.
Ensuring a healthy natural environment is important for animal reproduction and the continuation of many of our native species. You can help improve and protect our natural environment. Visit our volunteer page to learn more.
Cover photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.