During the summer months, especially in June and July, female snapping turtles will leave their “resident” body of fresh or brackish water (ponds, lakes, and even creeks) and look for soft soil to make a nest for their eggs, such as in a field or in your yard. Middletown Animal Control has even seen them make nests in the small patch of grass in between the curb and the sidewalk.
Natural Nesting Process
The female turtle will dig a hole about 4-7 inches deep, drop anywhere from 25 to 80 eggs in the hole, and cover it back up with dirt. She may need to rest for some time, as laying eggs is an exhausting act. Once she feels up to it she will go back to her body of water. The entire process will generally take 1-3 hours. She may walk 10 yards and need to rest again, depending on how exhausted she is from laying eggs, but she will clear the area when she is ready.
This is a natural process and it should not be disrupted. Animal Control will not interrupt this process, nor disrupt the nest in any way.
When the Eggs Hatch
The eggs hatch in 9-18 weeks, depending on a number of environmental conditions. The surviving babies crawl out of the dirt, usually at night, and instinctively head toward a water source. Hundreds of nests are made each year and thousands of baby turtles are born in our area. It is fairly rare to actually see the babies climbing out of the nest. Turtle hatchlings are vulnerable to predation at this size and not all hatchlings survive to adulthood. This is how it has been for hundreds of thousands of years.
When Intervention May Be Necessary
There are situations when intervention may be necessary, such as a turtle crossing a main road, falling into a tree well, etc. There is a common misconception that you can pick up a snapping turtle by its tail, however, this can cause spinal damage to the turtle and it is not the way to handle them. Also, a turtle crossing a road must be helped along in the same direction that it was going or it will turn around and keep trying to go in that new direction.
Do Not Approach, Handle, or Improperly Relocate Snapping Turtles
Snapping turtles can be a potentially dangerous animal when encountering them. They should not be approached or handled. They can stretch their neck as far as ¾ the length of their body with lightning quickness and can cause significant damage to whatever they grab on to. These animals should only be handled by the proper authorities who have experience.
It is illegal to improperly relocate any wildlife and it is a felony to purposely injure any wildlife. Snapping turtles are an ecologically important species. If you witness a snapping turtle in your yard it is best to leave it alone until it moves on. If a turtle is in the road, seems to be struggling, or is sick or injured in any way, you should contact the Animal Control Department at 732-615-2097 Monday through Friday between 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM or the Police Desk at 732-615-2100 after hours and on weekends.