Be on the Lookout for Baby Turtles in Early Fall
By Dan Thompson, Natural Resources
Late summer and early fall are the height of baby turtle season, so be careful where you step. Hatchlings are now emerging en masse from the nests they’ve been nestled in since May or June.
Female turtles lay their eggs in a depression in the soil and cover them up before leaving. After laying her eggs the mother turtle’s work is done, so baby turtles must survive on their own. The eggs incubate in the soil for about two months.
Blanding's turtle hatchling
Hatchlings usually emerge from their nest around the same time, so you may see them in the preserves and possibly in your neighborhood. Baby turtles are usually able to fend for themselves from the time they hatch, so there’s no need to help them or take them in and care for them. If you run across a baby turtle, it’s best to leave it be. Do not collect wild turtles and take them home. Likewise, owners of pet turtles should not release their pet turtles into the wild because they may spread disease or parasites to an otherwise healthy wild population.
Baby turtles in the nest will synchronize their emergence as a survival technique. Freshly disturbed soil from the hatchlings is a clue for foraging predators such as raccoons, so late hatchlings make for an easy meal. A high percentage of the nests don’t successfully hatch because the eggs are eaten shortly after being laid. Although the mother turtle is very diligent about covering up the nest and leaves almost no visual sign of it, predators can smell freshly disturbed soil and use it to key in on a nest.
Common musk (stinkpot) turtle
An interesting fact about turtles is that their gender is determined by the temperature the egg is incubated at. Warmer temperatures produce females, while cooler temperatures produce males.
A few species of turtles can produce more than one clutch of eggs during the year. These later clutches take a little longer to develop since they got a later start. As a result, they will actually spend winter insulated in the ground and emerge in early spring.
Eastern spiny softshell turtle
Some turtles native to DuPage County include the snapping turtle, eastern spiny soft shell turtle, Blanding’s turtle, common map turtle, midland painted turtle and common musk turtle.
More information about turtles in DuPage County is available here.
State-endangered Blanding's turtle