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“T” time at the Memorial Garden

By Wildlife and Industry Together (WAIT)

August 11, 2016

We may soon be witnessing yet another marvel centered on Discovery Lake.

Myrtle the Turtle laying eggs
Myrtle the Turtle nesting in 2014
Baby turtles crawling through grass
Part of the Myrtle 9 emerging in 2015

Discovery Lake’s aquatic turtle population would have begun mating in early spring, (late April or early May). From the story of Myrtle the Turtle [all-hands, Myrtle 2014 article (July 10, 2014), Myrtle 2015 Article (April 13, 2015)], we recall that female turtles can retain sperm for as long as two years and lay fertilized eggs from that one insemination. She could have also mated several times.When the female feels the urge, she will leave the water to deposit her eggs on higher ground. Usually she’ll find a suitable location within the first 100 feet, but Myrtle’s nest was almost 900 feet from the lake.

From previous observations, we knew that there could be predation losses. When the female excavates the egg chamber with her hind legs, she will urinate to soften the soil to make the process easier. After eggs are deposited, she will scrape the wet soil into the hole and push down. Not every female is efficient in completely filling or disguising the location.

Turtle nest
Turtle nest with depression
Turtle nest filled in with mulch
Nest in mulch, filled in

Often a depression will identify the spot. Most predators can detect and use the smell of the urine to locate the nest. As a result, raccoons, foxes, opossums, and perhaps coyotes raid the nests and consume the eggs. Many employees have seen remnants of eggs and have reported nests that were disturbed. Twenty of the Memorial Garden nests were raided, but it’s possible that some eggs were missed.

If our turtles began depositing eggs by the second week in May, then based on the table below, the tiny turtlelets could be hatching and emerging any day now. The Memorial Garden and the lakeside lawn hold a significant number of turtle nests this year. No other year in memory have so many turtles used the garden for their laying. Orange flags once marked each site, but were pulled when nests outnumbered the flags (>60).

Turtle nest with eaten eggs
Raided turtle nests with eaten eggs scattered about
Raided turtle nest

To get to the lake, the turtlelets must cross the highly traveled Discovery Lake Trail. We ask that you look for cross traffic as you walk, for they have never experienced anything quite like you. They should not need assistance, but if one becomes entangled, setting them on a straight path would be helpful.

Even though expectations are high that they will be emerging on the predicted time table, we realize that the Myrtle 9 waited until the following spring to reveal themselves. Be patient and keep a watchful eye out for new life.

Please report any sightings to the WAIT committee.

Turtle Egg Incubation Table

Turtle # eggs Incubation
Alligator Snapping ≤ 25 eggs 90 days
Eastern Box turtle 3-8 eggs 90 days
Eastern Mud turtle 3-5 eggs 100 days
Eastern Musk turtle 2-5 eggs ~100 days
Eastern River Cooter 12-20 eggs 90-100 days
Florida Cooter ≤ 20 eggs 90 days
Painted turtle 2-10 eggs 75 days
Pet Turtle 0-X eggs varies days
Spotted turtle 3-6 eggs ~90 days
Yellowbelly Slider ≤ 10 eggs 60 days
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