Right now baby turtles are hatching in underground nests along the shores and beaches of Lake Champlain. If you walk on quiet beaches you might see the baby turtles crawling up through a hole no bigger than a quarter. The turtles themselves are not much bigger than an inch in diameter, so be sure to watch your step! Spiny Softshell Turtles, Map Turtles, Painted Turtles, and Snapping Turtles are all emerging from their nests.
Female turtles leave the water to dig nests and lay their eggs in sand or loose rock. Some turtles can lay up to 50 eggs! The eggs will need to incubate under the sand or shale up to 80 days, depending on the species, and the temperature of the sand and rock. After they come out of the egg, the hatchlings still have a “yolk” sac, which gives them some nutrients for the beginning of life.
Some mammals like foxes, racoons, and skunks like to eat turtle eggs and hatchlings. Some of these animals also like to eat food from humans, like trash and compost that we don’t dispose of properly. When these mammals get into our trash and compost their numbers grow. The more their numbers grow, the more baby turtles they eat.
How you can help. You can help protect baby turtles from these mammals by clearing trash and food around turtle nest sites, and by keeping compost piles and trash areas inaccessible to animals.
Want more? To see baby turtles up close, come on down to ECHO. Send us photos of turtles you see on your next trip outside. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your pictures!
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Animal Care Staff coordinate environmental programs at ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. The center, which works to engage families in the wonder of nature, and care of Lake Champlain., partnered with the Burlington Free Press to publish this feature.
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