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Turtles/Premature cooter turtle



Okay, so, a while back we found a mother turtle laying her eggs in an unsafe area where dogs, fox's, cars, people, and many other things were at risk of hurting them.

We got photos of the mother, and we were able to contact a man who identified the mother as a pensacola cooter.

Well, it has been some time since then and we have been keeping the eggs which have not hatched, and we were worried they were dead or unfertile.

My mother took them out, and was curious to see the inside (figuring that there was no turtle in there, as she assumed it was unfertile) What she discovered was a baby turtle, about the size of a penny-nickle i would say.

She picked it up, and chucked the egg (despite me telling her not to) into the grass. The baby did move in her hand, and it has a little shell, and eyes, and little nails and feet. The bottom shell (where the tummy is) is not there as far as i know, and you can see a red line where i believe is a vein.

We have taken measures and made a nest out of damp paper towels and put it and the nest in a Tupperware (no lid) placing it outside, and placing a lamp over it. (This is what the lamp looks like: the lamp is about a foot away.

I just want to know if we are taking care of it right, and if we should make a different style of home for the turtle, what we should feed it, etc.

Also, how we should care for the rest of the eggs.

And, any extra information as to how to care for them as they age, what to feed them, incubators, as much information as you can possibly give would be extremely helpful to us.

Thank you!

Hi Mikayla,

I need a little more information, since I'm unclear on some things:

1)  How old are the eggs now?
2)  How do you have them set up now (I mean buried or whatever)?

When eggs are removed from a nest, it needs to be done very carefully.  The embryo begins to form almost right away, and if the eggs are turned even within a few hours after laying, it can kill the cells that are developing.  Then they need to be placed in a good incubating medium and either go into an incubator or kept buried in a safe, warm area where they won't dry out.

Generally under artificial conditions (constant temperature) eggs will hatch more or less within two months--figure 2-3 months.  However, the general rule is to leave eggs until they hatch or are obviously rotten (and you'd know if they were!).  I'd guess your eggs are approximately 45 days old, maybe a little older, but that's just an estimate.  The hatchling in the open egg won't survive; it's just way too small and young.  A fully formed hatchling would be a little bigger than a quarter.  The rest of the eggs probably have another 2-4 weeks to go, depending on temperatures.

The good news is, however you've been keeping them, the eggs seem to be developing.  If you have the eggs buried, just maintain them the way they are, but you might want to lightly sprinkle the soil or whatever once a week or so to keep it from drying out.  If they're not buried, they should be in some kind of enclosed container (but not sealed; there needs to be some airflow) and lightly sprayed with water to keep them a little moist.  You can candle the remaining eggs carefully to see how many are viable, although once the embryos have grown you won't be able to see anything but dark because they'll fill up the egg.

Once the eggs start to hatch, DO NOT assist the hatchlings!  This is really, really important.  The hatching process can take a couple of days, and if they're removed from the egg before they're ready, they can die.  Hatchlings that can't get out of the egg by themselves are probably not strong enough to survive anyway.  Once a hatchling is completely free from the egg, remove it to a small plastic contain with damp papers towels.  Don't worry about feeding them, because they can survive off the egg yolk for several weeks.  Generally once one egg pips (starts to hatch), the others will follow within a few days.  After they hatch, you can release them into a safe area.

How to candle:

This link is for Russian tortoise egg development, but it's more or less the same (so you have an idea if you candle the eggs, and also how hatching goes):  If you don't see anything but white when you candle, the egg is probably a dud.

Let me know how it goes.  If you can post a picture of how you have the eggs set up, I can give you better advice.  Also a picture of the hatchling would be good to give me a better idea of the stage of development, but I really doubt that one is going to be able to make it.  


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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.


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.

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

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