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© Lora Denis
People often ask Ontario Nature staff for advice about how to deal with situations that they encounter in nature. Whether putting out a bird feeder, planting native flowers or grasses, or choosing not to cut down the trees on your property, people are on the front lines of local conservation efforts more often than you might realize.
We are frequently asked what to do when a turtle lays eggs in an “unnatural” place. Recently, someone asked if it was ok to move snapping turtle eggs that had been laid in front of their house, separated from a nearby lake by a road and a trailer park.
First, some important information about turtles: Turtle eggs have a naturally high mortality rate. So while it is expected that many eggs will be lost, that in itself is not cause for concern given that adult turtles possess extremely high survivorship rates when people aren’t around. The egg mortality rate only becomes a problem when human activity, roads, development, cause an increase in adult mortality rates. Even a one percent/year rise in adult mortality rates could wipe out an entire population of turtles.
Consequently, it is more important than ever to make sure turtle eggs survive. Eggs may not develop if they are not oriented correctly after being moved. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is preparing protocols for nest protection, which will be released in 2012. In the meantime, MNR must authorize the re-location of turtle eggs. This is because seven of Ontario’s eight turtles are at risk and therefore protected under the Endangered Species Act; the eighth is protected under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. Specific rules and regulations come with this protection including getting a permit before doing anything to turtle eggs. Our advice in this situation is to contact your local MNR Species at Risk biologist to determine the best course of action.
However, given the toll that a growing human population in Ontario takes on turtles in general, it remains important to move adult turtles off our roads. Saving just one adult turtle from getting hit by a car is actually better for the species than protecting dozens of nests.
Turtles should always be moved in the direction in which they are facing, no matter what the habitat looks like and nesting turtles should never be moved. You can learn more about reptile and amphibian stewardship.
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I have a small pond, of which I manually clean out weekly, because there is no filter system. I have 2 red eared Slinder turtles. I thought both were girls. Will a turtle lay eggs if both are girls? Or is she laying eggs, because there is a girl and boy?
My second question: there is no land in fenced pond, so eggs are laid in water. This year was 6.
Can I place the water laid eggs in warm soil, and will they hatch? Does she need to tend them, or can I leave them to hatch when the summer is over?
Thank you. Usually they eat the eggs and I find pieces in water when I clean.
P.S. if they were laid in water, do they drown?
We are sorry for the delayed response.
Turtle eggs will not survive in water, but it is illegal to disturb nests without permits. This is a non-native species, which complicates things, but we still would not advise anyone to move turtle eggs themselves. Aside from the legality issues, it is easy to damage eggs/impact viability if they are not handled correctly. Since it is a non-native, we doubt anyone would act to save the eggs, but you could recommend contacting her local MNRF office or a local wildlife rehabilitator for advice.
As for laying eggs without a male, turtles can lay unfertilized eggs (as can other reptiles).
I saw a painters turtle laying eggs in the middle of the road (gravel). I made a marker to keep other cars from hitting the turtle but I am unsure of how to help the eggs. It’s not a supper busy road but would it be safe to leave them if they where they are?
Consider contacting the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre; they may be able to help or offer further specific advice https://ontarioturtle.ca/
Hello, I found a painted turtle laying eggs out by my garden. I would like to try and keep them safe how or what can I do to protect them?
I live in western Wisconsin and had a painted turtle lay it’s eggs in my front yard yesterday.
We live near a marsh and turtles are laying eggs in our neighborhood every spring.
Unfortunately we also have a lot of moles or voles tunneling through our yard and I suspect eating the turtle eggs.
Not long after the turtle laid it’s eggs I saw a new tunnel and dirt being pushed up near the turtle eggs.
When I saw that happening I quickly and carefully dug around the nest and placed the (12)eggs in the same orientation inside of a shallow plastic bucket with the same dirt around them. I dug a wider hole in the ground and lowered the bucket into the hole in the same location and the same depth so they would not be eaten by the moles. During the day I leave it uncovered and at night I cover it with another bucket with a brick on top.
Please let me know what you think about this….am I doing the right thing to help the turtles survive?
Hello! so, my friend found six turtle eggs in the wild, and took them home to hatch and raise. is that okay to do? i feel like it isn’t…
I’ve just discovered snapping turtle eggs in my composter but disturbed 2 eggs before realizing what I was handling. I have returned them to the pile and covered them however, I want to give them the best possible chance of survival and I’m not sure if I’ve placed them in correct direction, etc. Any help you can give is appreciated.
Thanks so much,
Is there any possibilities for sea turtle eggs to hatch after ‘being moved’ from their nest? If yes, do you know how long the possible days to leave them outside?
I’m asking this because I find the trading of sea turtle eggs bg in my hometown. I have a plan to buy them all and put them in a basket of sand.
Please let me know if you have some ideas.
Ontario Nature is most knowledgeable, and specifically focused, on wild species and wild spaces in Ontario, Canada.
We are not able to offer pertinent advice on care of sea turtles eggs, however the Sea Turtle Conservancy would likely be able to offer you excellent insight: https://conserveturtles.org/about-stc-contact-us/
Our Red Eared Slider turtle laid eggs yesterday iutside and we live in the high desert in California where it will get very hot before they hatch. Can we move them now and put them in a turtle incubator?
We are not authoritative experts for regions in California. However, it is important not to move or disturb turtle eggs in Ontario.
Though we are an excellent source of information as an established provincially-focused organisation in Ontario, we would recommend contacting wildlife and conservation authorities or established groups in your area. A good contact might include: https://www.fws.gov/cno/orgs-offices.html
I have kept 3 turtles in my house by making a concrete small pond.. One if the turtle has laid its egg inside that small pond..out of three, one died. I dont know who is the mother of those eggs… Is it safe to keep those eggs inside water. And m confused, can it be hatched inside water or I have to move those eggs to safe place?
It is illegal to keep any wild turtles or wild species in Ontario as pets: https://ontarionature.org/turtle-nest-blog-series-why-the-turtle-crossed-the-road-other-faq-about-turtle-nests-part-i/
However, if the turtles you have are red-eared sliders bought from a pet store, do not release them into the wild as they can often transmit diseases and are not wild species. https://ontarionature.org/programs/citizen-science/reptile-amphibian-atlas/non-native-species/
This being said, wild turtle eggs need to be incubated underground as in a nest context or artifically incubated for conservation purposes to hatch, though the eggs will not hatch if underwater. This being said, do not disturb a turtle nest if you happen across one in nature, please read this blog for further information: https://ontarionature.org/turtle-nest-blog-series-why-the-turtle-crossed-the-road-other-faq-about-turtle-nests-part-i/
Noah Cole, Ontario Nature
A turtle nested in my backyard it’s under our detached garage though. My step dad wants to move it because he doesn’t want anything to happen to his garage. He’s not even thinking of moving the turtle and it’s eggs for the right reasons. He’s worried about his garage, not the turtles. Anyway, I keep telling him he needs to wait to do this and look into it and research it first because the turtles could be harmed. Do you have any advise on how I could convince him to either not move them or if he absolutely has to, how to do it safely for the turtles?
We suggest to “Take care to observe the female turtle from a distance (at least 10 metres) to minimize disturbing the nesting process. If a female is spooked repeatedly, or in a way that is very stressful, she may end up ‘laying’ her eggs in the water. Retaining the eggs can be harmful to the female, and if the eggs are laid in water they will not survive.
In most cases, there is no reason to engage with the female turtle or her eggs. Sometimes there are exceptions (e.g. landscaping or renovation projects that lead to the destruction of a nest) and in these cases you should contact your local Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) office or the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre. They will try to work with you to find a solution that works for everyone.”
You can learn further information here: https://ontarionature.org/turtle-nest-blog-series-why-the-turtle-crossed-the-road-other-faq-about-turtle-nests-part-i/
You can reach the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and their contact information here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/ministry-natural-resources-and-forestry
The Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre can be reached here: http://www.ontarioturtle.ca/contact, 705-741-5000
A painted turtle has laid her eggs in my yard (never has this happened before). Can I safely move them? How long before they hatch? What do I do when they hatch?
That is a good question.
It is best for the turtles if you keep the clutch of eggs on your property where they remain.
The following two resources provide insight and instruction to how to build a protected turtle egg mesh cage. You could build a smaller variation of the one shown in the Niagara College document: https://sustainability.niagaracollege.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/TURTLE_PROTOCOL-.pdf and http://cedarcreekinstitute.org/Turtle%20Nest%20Protection.pdf
It will take about two months or two and a half months for the eggs to develop and hatch.
When they do hatch, if they have a road to cross, please keep an eye out for them, if the wetland, lake or pond is by your property try to ensure they safely get into it and if there is a lake, pond or wetland across the road they need to get to please, if safe for you and possible, help them safely across the road.
Here is another great strongly-recommended resource that explains turtle nesting trends, the importance of protecting nests and how to properly build an effective turtle nest cage frame:
I gt a turtle bt it laid 2 eggs in water bt i put dem in sum sand wit a light over it
I have a question, theres a pond on a golf course with several turtles of different kinds, i visit there everyday (not touching them just taking photographs) when i was on my way down there not too long ago, I found a painted turtle pretty far from the pond on the golf course.. not too sure if it could have laid eggs and was heading back home ( I helped it back to the pond cause there was a bird jumping around it) .. back safe in the water now, anyway.. if i find a nest on the golf course, whats the best thing i can do to make sure it doesnt get touched or ruined by golfers, its a very active golf course.. kind of worried.. going to take a look around, won’t touch anything until I have some input from you, thank you..
Great question – we certainly hope those turtle eggs are okay!
With respect to “whats the best thing i can do to make sure it [the clutch of turtle eggs] doesnt get touched or ruined”?
The best think to do may be to record and mark the location of the clutch of turtle eggs, and place either a mesh wire cage similar to the one shown here: http://www.orilliapacket.com/2013/04/19/protecting-turtle-eggs-from-predators to protect the eggs, chicken wire with carefully placed stakes can help too.
Hopefully the golf course will be willing to provide the materials to protect the nests, if not see if perhaps you could source the materials for them to protect the nests and you can also help the turtles by reporting your sightings to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas: ontarionature.org/atlas
After reading this blog I realize that I can’t move some turtle eggs that were laid right by the street in front of my house. As there is no curb people park on the edge of my lawn where the nest is. How do I protect them ? What is the solution ?
Hello Steve (and Jackson from a former comment),
Steve, Emma Horrigan, our citizen science coordinator has provided a link to a good site with information on how to build and set up structures around turtle nesting sites: http://cloca.ca/stewardship/turtle_stewardship_prog/index.htm#instructions. Additionally, here is a blog about turtle nest protectors: http://www.creditvalleyca.ca/source/2015/11/turtle-nest-protectors-cvcs-wilderness-watchdog/. This is often an effective solution for protecting nests. She would not suggest moving or relocating the eggs.
Jackson, true apologies that this feedback has come late. We hope this insight is significantly helpful.
I have question, I work at an music event station by a river here in South Carolina. Last week a turtle came and laid many eggs buried in the on location near the stage. We have a large event coming in the next week and I am extremely concerned about the safety of the eggs. I was wondering if it could be safer to move the eggs to the other side of the property approximately the same distance away from the river. However, I don’t want to harm the eggs or do anything wrong regarding the safety of the animals or legal matters. I know nothing about this topic and have no clue if there is a wildlife protection agency that I could possibly call to help me with this situation or not.
I have 4 big turtles in my back yard. I made them fenced space for them so they won’t get lost. But somehow they end up getting out anyhow. Since I have a big back yard, they tend to lay eggs mostly were plants are located since it’s moist. The problem is, if we don’t find the eggs they may die from the heat or get eaten. While my father was doing gardening, he found a hatched turtle. After we began to slowly digg and we took all of them out. The problem is, the turtle seem fine at first but it then passed away. I started watching YouTube videos and I noticed that turtles are born much bigger and much more active than the one we found. It was a possibility that my father accidentally may have cracked the egg while gardening. The rest of the eggs look perfectly fine. I placed them in a big bowl and dugged them in. What is the possibility of there survival?
Hello Ally, What species of turtle do you have? Are these pet turtles from a store, or wild turtles which you have collected? (Collecting wildlife is illegal without a license.) Turtle eggs are best left undisturbed. Even well-intentioned actions can cause them to become unviable. Survival rate in the wild is low. It sounds like your baby turtle hatched too early.
You can find more info on these websites: https://www.ontarionature.org/atlas and http://kawarthaturtle.org/blog/turtles/
i have seen an ontario snapping turtle lay her eggs she spent 3 days finding the spot. Now my biggest concern is i have informed the builders and the city officals to there whereabouts. Not only do they not care as to what happens to them they specifical asked to not have it mentioned to the mnr. As they are on a construction site and it would delay progress.. so i need to know the proper way to move this nest of eggs as to make sure that our wildlife continues to flurish for future.generations to enjoy..Again its very critical i get this done immediately or they will destroy the nest without any concer. thank you jay in innisfil..
It is not okay to move snapping turtle eggs, as they are a species at risk.
It would be best though to report the site to the conservation authority or the MNRF.
Thank you Jay
We have a snapper that lays her eggs near our septic tank every year as it’s quite sandy, for whatever reason she had layed them all along our drive way (gravel) it was raining when she layed them so the ground was soft, but it’s quite hard now. My questions, would they be able to dig themselves out of a gravel driveway, and would moving them to the septic sandy location harm them?
It is preferred that eggs are not dug out as they could get damaged inside when they are moved. If there is a way for them to drive around the nest until the eggs have hatched, that is probably best. Turtles at times nest on gravel road shoulders so their gravel driveway should not be a problem for the hatchlings to dig out of.
Feel free to refer them to email@example.com if they have any more questions.
I have a huge pond I built in my back yard
My pond is 37 feet in the middle. It’s about
100 by 150 thousand of fish and lots of
birds, snakes muskrats. And lots of turtles.
On June 2, 3, 4, and fifth. My turtles
Have been laying eggs in my gardens.
I have many pictures. Lots of people
know my pond and they drop off turtles
snakes and what ever. It is our oasis and
At this time of the year turtle eggs are typically hatching and usually egg laying is complete in early July. Do you have photos of the eggs? Is it possible they were dug up by a predator who got scared off before he could eat them?
Feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We have found what we believe to be turtle eggs just laid within the past few days at the end of our gravel driveway at the cottage. we would like to move them to keep them safe from cars. Where is the bet place to put them and will they survive if moved
Trevor and Andree,
Thank you for your messages.
Trevor asked: Are there laws against intentionally hitting turtles on roads?
Yes, animal cruelty laws and for some species special legislation like the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act or the Endangered Species Act prohibit such behaviour. The trouble is that proving such an act is deliberate requires catching someone in the act and being able to prove that they did not hit the turtle (or other animal) by accident.
Andree asked: When will the turtle eggs hatch that were laid in early June?
Incubation time for turtle eggs varies greatly with temperature. The eggs you saw should hatch in approximately 50-90 days. The warmer the summer the sooner they will hatch. Especially cool summers in Ontario often cause eggs not to hatch at all. That is part of the reason why the survival rate of eggs to adulthood is so low. Thus the eggs could hatch anytime between late July and mid-Sept, or not at all.
Thank you again for your insightful comments and excellent questions. I hope you have found my answers helpful.
Thanks John, for the info. On Ennis Road, near Balderson, in Tay Valley, we watched quietly while a mother lay ten eggs into a nest on the side of the road at least 300 meters from Bennett lake. Three hours later the hole was filled and she was gone. When might those babies hatch? Andree
This is great information John. I have family that live along the Grand River just outside of Brantford, Ontario and every year dozens and dozens of turtles decide to cross a winding road to bask in the sun or lay their eggs in the ditch. Many residents handle the turtles as you mentioned but there are individuals who see them as stationary targets on the road which is a devastating and unecessary tragedy. Are there laws against this type of sociopathic behaviour?