If turtles could put locks on their doors, they would. Lucky for them, they have friends at Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) to help keep their valuables safe.
Turtle eggs are at high risk for being eaten by scavengers. To increase their chances of survival, CVC staff build turtle nest protectors to keep pesky scavengers away from the eggs. Building nest protectors helps increase the chances of survival.
Female snapping turtles reach sexual maturity much later in life. They begin to lay eggs between the ages of 17 and 19. Snapping turtles can lay upwards of 50 eggs at one time! Midland painted turtles reach sexual maturity at about five years old and lay between three and 14 eggs at one time. A group of turtle eggs is called a clutch.
From late May to early July, female turtles search along shorelines to find a place to dig nests and lay their eggs. They burry their eggs in areas with loose sand or gravel because it’s easy for digging and can retain heat from the sun. Mother turtles do their best to cover the eggs. Once complete, they leave the future of their eggs up to fate. Interestingly, the incubation temperature of the eggs can determine the sex of the turtle.
Nest protectors are these turtle’s first line of defence. Once breeding season is underway, CVC staff search throughout CVC conservation areas for new turtle nests. Once located, a nest protector is centred overtop of the nest. Nest protectors are wooden square frames with wire mesh on top that cover the entire nest. They are weighed down with rocks or sand bags to discourage raccoons, foxes, skunks and any other hungry animals.
Turtle eggs are most vulnerable to predators within the first two weeks of being laid because this is when their scent is the strongest. The smell significantly decreases after two weeks, and the nest protectors in preparation for hatching. Snapping turtle eggs hatch in the fall, whereas midland turtle eggs may hatch in the fall of the same year they are laid but can sometimes stay in the nest over winter and emerge the following spring. There’s no way to predict what season the eggs may hatch so it’s important that CVC staff closely monitor activity in the nest.
Building nest protectors helps give turtles a better chance of survival. Learn more about species at risk in our watershed and how you can help protect them. Keep an eye on the Conservation Youth Corp (CYC) page for opportunities to help build turtle nest protectors.