New Floridians

Motherhood at a Turtle’s Pace

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Turtle Featured2

Motherhood at a Turtle’s Pace


I know that many of those who read this post will wonder if I have any life at all. If I did, would I spend over an hour watching a turtle laying eggs? Yes, I would and did. In fact, this is the second time I have stood and watched this happen. Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me.

A year ago, I happened upon a Peninsula Cooter digging a hole in the wooded area behind our yard. I watched the turtle dig for over an hour, hoping to see her lay her eggs. Then, I realized that I had to go to the store for some things for dinner. I hoped that she would still be there by the time I returned. She was not. It was interesting to see that she had covered up her nest so well that it was hard to tell that she had dug a hole.

We knew that there was a possibility of a raccoon raiding the nest; those masked critters love eggs. It was too late in the evening for me to go to the hardware store to buy something to keep the coons out of the nest. I decided I would go the first thing the next morning. You can guess what happened; overnight a raccoon paid a visit and the eggs were gone!

I really thought I had missed a once in a lifetime opportunity, I figured that I would never have another chance to see a turtle lay eggs.

Yesterday I was in the back yard trying to photograph yellow rumped warblers. These are difficult birds to photograph; they are very fast, tiny birds. After a bit, I decided to walk around the yard to see what else might be around.

I noticed a rather large turtle in the yard next door. It is about 50 feet away from the wooded area behind our houses. This house is in foreclosure and has had no occupants for over two years. The lawn gets cut every other week, but other than that, it has not been cared for very well, so it looks a bit rough.

I turned my camera to the turtle and snapped a photo. I immediately noticed that there was disturbed dirt behind the turtle. I use a pretty long telephoto lens, so I was able to keep about a dozen feet away.

I slowly moved around so I could get a better view of her back side. I was amazed to see an egg starting to emerge from her.

I made this photograph and then watched as the entire egg popped out. I should have observed the whole process through the lens, so I would have been ready for the egg to make its exit.

Honestly, my interest in seeing what was happening took president over my photography. It was the last egg she laid; I was fortunate to get to see it.

What happened next was really fascinating. Momma turtle started filling in the hole where she laid the eggs. She never turned around to take a look, just used her back legs and feet to scoop the loose dirt over the eggs.

(Click on the photos for a larger view)

As she was filling in the hole, I could see her feeling that there was a pretty large depression under her left foot. The problem was, she didn’t have enough dirt on the left side to fill in the hole. Again, she never turned to look; this was all done by feel. She dug up some fresh dirt, to her left side, and scooped it over, to cover the hole.

She worked slow, very slow. It took about 45 minutes until the eggs were covered and she went on her way.

As she was moving toward the woods, I shot a close up portrait of her. I think she had a proud look on her face. What do you think?

As you can see in the photo on the right, unless you witnessed her digging the hole, you would have no idea that there were eggs buried here.

I immediately took off for the local hardware store and bought screen and stakes to keep the raccoons from raiding the nest. It takes about 90 days for the eggs to hatch. I will be keeping a close eye on it nest until the beginning of April.

There  will be images posted here if any baby turtles appear.



FOG sez:

It has been said, I often move at a turtle’s pace. Some turtles can live for 100 years. Seems like a good pace to me.


  1. Marie Di Rosa07-26-2013

    Thanks for sharing the information, photos and lovely account of the turtle laying the eggs and covering the nest.

  2. turtle lover10-26-2013

    No more pics so no baby turtles sad

    • FOG10-29-2013

      We checked on the nest almost every day and no babies emerged. No predators disturbed the nest; sometimes things just don’t work out.

  3. Vince12-09-2013

    Thanks for posting. I’ve got one in my backyard laying eggs as I type.

    • FOG12-09-2013

      Congratulations, hope you get to see the babies emerge.

  4. Judy Hamel12-14-2013

    I have had the same experience with animals digging up turtle nests in the back yard.I did not know I had a nest until I saw the ruined eggs. Yesterday I watched a turtle I think a cooter dig another nest and lay eggs. She covered the nest with her back feet just like you said. I have a laundry basket with a weight on top of it over it to try to protect it. Will let you know it any eggs hatch.

  5. Kate12-31-2013

    Had one lay eggs on Halloween and someone told us Peninsular Cooters eggs hatch in 55 – 60 days. Haven’t seen anything yet so I was starting to worry. I see you say 90 days so now I won’t worry just yet. Thanks

  6. loving my turtles04-12-2015

    I have a nest in my back yard and I was fortunate to come upon a mommy turtle laying eggs I was also fortunate to take several videos and pictures it was the cutest thing that I have ever seen hope they hatch I also did what you did Fog I covered them and but the only difference is that my stakes are metal my experience is the same as yours. I also am currently taking care of 5 turtles and a fish in my FISH/TURTLE tank in my room I had them ever since this winter I saved all 5 of them from being dead in my pool. How I know that the mommy turtle was hatching was my dad I was watching Total Recall when all of a sudden my dad called me on the house phone he said to me come to the Garadge so I ran to the garadge and I looked she was next to the tree so I could easily get a video it was the coolest thing I have ever seen tell you guys if anything eles happens bye.

  7. Bud Raynor04-18-2015

    A week ago a very large cooter turtle was on our driveway, I thought nothing of it until this morning when I found a hole a Raccoon had dug and a dozen or so egg shells scattered about. Before he dug there was no evidence of a nest there.
    Hopefully madam turtle will try again.
    By the way, thanks for the information on the “New Floridians” website.

    Bud Raynor

  8. Charles05-18-2015

    Seen one today in my back yard. Not sure if she laid any eggs, she dug a hole under a palmetto tree next to our pool. I waited till she left the nest before taking a closer look. I didn’t see any eggs and she left the hole uncovered, so I covered the hole and went into the house. Minutes later I seen a raven trying to uncover the hole. Not sure if it was watching the turtle or it smelled the sent. But I put a fishing net over it and we will see in 90 or so days.

  9. Micheal04-11-2016

    I have one by My pump House

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