Turtles/newborn

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QUESTION: 10 weeks ago, a painted turtle laid eggs in our yard. Thinking they must have died as the on-line info said they should hatch in 7-9 weeks I dug in the area and when I touched one egg, it ruptured. Now what do I do! I covered the rest back up but what about the one that's open?

ANSWER: Hi Deb,

Incubation length can actually vary quite a bit depending on environmental factors.  I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "ruptured."  If the egg merely cracked slightly, then there's still a chance it would hatch.  It it split or cracked enough to become indented, then if there was a live embryo it would likely die unless it was ready to hatch anyway.  If it actually kind of burst, then there was probably no embryo and the egg was on its way to becoming rotten.  Rotten eggs explode, but the stench is unbelievable and you would know for sure!

If you can post a picture of the egg that's cracked (if I understand correctly that you kept it out of the nest), I can get a better idea of what you meant.  If you can see a live embryo in there, but there's a lot of egg white (goo), then unfortunately the little guy probably won't make it.  Premature hatchlilngs just aren't strong enough to survive.

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QUESTION: By ruptured I mean it split open and there was the baby turtle alive. The yolk sack is quite large but it has survived overnight by putting it under a 60 watt lamp and keeping him damp. Since then, the rest of the egg shell has come off and it even drank some water. What else can I do keep it alive?  Thanks!

Answer
OK, that explains it better.  The egg must have been just about ready to hatch, then.  You've done well so far!  The hatchling needs to be kept on clean, damp paper towels until the yolk sac is completely absorbed, which may take a couple of days.  It's a good idea to cover it with a damp paper towel as well, because their natural instinct is to hide from predators.  The lamp will probably work well as far as heat goes.  Don't worry about feeding it, because they live off the yolk sack for quite a while.   Once the yolk sac is fully absorbed,  it's safe to release the baby in the nearest body of water.  In an area with plenty of vegetation is best, because it will provide plenty of cover and protection.

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Jeannie

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Questions regarding husbandry of Russian tortoises and other Mediterranean species, sulcata, and redfoot tortoises; general tortoise and turtle care; box turtle care. If I can't answer a specific question, I can provide sources for further research. Disclaimer: My advice is not a substitute for vet care. If I think your tortoise/turtle has a specific medical condition or injury that warrants a vet visit, I'll tell you so, and if possible I'll help you locate a vet. It is neither legal nor ethical for me to provide veterinary advice.

Experience

I have kept and bred Russian tortoises for over ten years and have other Mediterranean species plus redfoots and box turtles. I've worked with other tortoise and turtle species while doing volunteer rescue work; mostly sulcata but some leopards, California desert tortoises, yellowfoots, all box turtle species, red-eared sliders, etc. I don't personally keep aquatic species, but have access to a wealth of information and research to help you with any questions you might have.

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My knowledge is based on hands-on experience keeping, breeding, and working with tortoises and turtles.

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