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Turtles/turtle eggs in North Louisiana

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Question
a turtle laid and buried eggs in our garden a few days ago.06/01/2015.  My grandbaby got to see this happen and we would like to dig eggs up and put them in a aquarium so she can see the eggs turn into baby turtles.  She is 3 1/2 and was amazed for hours watching the process and then when the mother left was really confused.  Don't want to harm them though.  Please let us know if it is possible.  Thank You,  Rhonda

Answer
Hi Rhonda,

If you can tell me the turtle species or give me a description I can give you an estimate on when the eggs might hatch, but it would be best to leave the eggs where they are, for several reasons:

1)  It's always best to leave wild turtle nests undisturbed whenever possible;

2)  Digging up eggs requires a good deal of caution.  The embryos start to form right away, and if the eggs are rolled or disturbed too much, the developing cells can drown.

3)  Eggs need to be incubated in the proper environment.  In the wild, the female turtle chooses her nesting spot carefully, and often will dig and then abandon a nest if the location isn't just right.  In captivity this usually means using a reptile incubator, so the temperature and humidity can be kept constant, mimicking the conditions of a natural nest.  You can incubate eggs without an official incubator, but it's trickier and requires careful monitoring.

4)  You can't see anything unless you candle the eggs anyway.  Turtle eggs are opaque like chicken eggs.  If you candle them, you can see a little bit, but not a whole lot, and really nothing after the first month or so (generally they take two to three months to hatch, give or take).  It's a bit tricky to do, and of course increases the risk of breaking or cracking the eggs, plus I don't think your granddaughter would be able to see much anyway.  Incubating eggs means a whole lot of staring at nothing, haha (I've incubated my share of tortoise eggs, so believe me, most of the time it isn't very exciting).

The best lesson you can teach her right now is that every wild animal is special and has a unique way of having their babies, and that every wild animal should be treated with respect.  I know waiting is hard for a little one her age, but perhaps you can make a special calendar together that will help her see how the eggs are developing.  I can probably find some links or youtube videos that would help.  If we can figure out an approximate hatch date, you may be able to see the hatchlings emerging from the nest site.  I wish I could tell you to go ahead and dig up the nest, but it really isn't the best thing for the turtles.  Thanks so much for asking!

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Jeannie

Expertise

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.

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

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