How do you tell a female turtle from a male turtle? Well, it is not easy and it takes practice since males and females look alike externally. But simply put, you flip the turtle on its back to see the where the location of the cloacal opening is. What’s the cloacal opening? It’s the opening on the underside of the turtle’s tail where both waste and reproductive matter passes. If the opening is close to the edge of the carapace (top of the turtle shell), it is most likely a female. If the opening is farther down towards the tip of the tail, it is most likely a male.
Like all reptiles turtle lay eggs. Snapping turtles usually lay eggs in mid-June. Did you know female turtles are usually about 19 years old before they lay eggs? The female digs out a shallow hollow in a sandy, sunny area where she deposits from to 22 to 62 eggs which look just like ping pong balls! She covers them up and departs, never to see her young emerge. Up to 90% of the nests will be destroyed by predators such as skunks, raccoon, mink and fox frequently during the first night after the eggs are laid.
The eggs will hatch after 90 to 120 days which means in September in this area. The hatchlings will head right for water even though they cannot see it. It is here in the mud on the bottom of a pond or marsh where they will hibernate until spring. Snapping turtles will often overwinter in groups at sites called “hibernicula” which they will return to year after year.
Stay tuned for how our snapping turtles got their name.
By Zooey Zullo