Wood turtles share many similarities with other semiaquatic turtles, but one thing that sets them apart is the small number of offspring they produce. So, how many eggs do wood turtles lay? What are their mating habits? And how long does it take young wood turtles to reach sexual maturity? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more!
What You'll Learn Today
How Many Eggs Does a Wood Turtle Lay?
Though some turtles are known for laying multiple clutches each year totaling dozens or hundreds of eggs, wood turtles only lay one clutch in a season. On average, this clutch contains between 4 and 18 eggs.
Because they lay so few eggs, wood turtles have trouble maintaining their populations.
Their nests are often destroyed by predators before the babies even hatch from the eggs. And, once they hatch, many of the babies are eaten almost immediately.
It is not uncommon for all of the members of a clutch to die before reaching adulthood. And those that do reach adulthood don’t always mate or lay eggs every year.
Check out this video of a wood turtle laying eggs:
What is a Wood Turtle’s Life History?
As mentioned, juvenile wood turtles face many threats in the wild. They are preyed upon by a multitude of predators, including raccoons, large fish, and snapping turtles.
Adult wood turtles face threats of their own. They are often isolated from each other and even killed due to habitat loss, captured for the illegal pet trade, and subject to various diseases, pollution, and being hit by cars.
The ones that survive spend much of their lives in clean rivers and surrounding forests or fields. They are not strictly aquatic or terrestrial; instead, they spend much of their summers on land and much of their winters brumating underwater.
As the weather warms up each spring, they will emerge from their winter home. Most mating is done in the spring, though they sometimes mate in the fall as well.
Wood turtles typically lay their eggs between May and July, and these eggs usually hatch by September or October following an incubation period of 47 to 69 days. Once the eggs are laid, the female leaves the nesting site and doesn’t return.
Wood turtle hatchlings are on their own from the moment they are born. They must find food, water, and shelter from the many threats they face all based on instinct, as their parents do not teach them or care for them.
Wood turtles lay their eggs in nests that they dig in soft soil. These nests can often be found on riverbanks, roadside embankments, and sandbars.
When not mating, nesting, or brumating, wood turtles spend most of their time looking for food. They will eat both plants and meat-based foods, from slugs and worms to small mice and carrion.
Do Wood Turtles Have Mating Rituals?
Male wood turtles express their interest in a female by doing a special “mating dance.”
This dance begins with a male approaching a female and using his snout to nuzzle her shell, tail, head, or legs. Sometimes the female will initially leave the area; the male may lose interest and turn his attention to other females, or he may follow her.
If he chooses to follow, he will often end up mating with the female in a more secluded location. During copulation, the male climbs onto the back of the female.
Mating can take several hours. Once it is done, the male and female go their separate ways, as wood turtles are mostly solitary creatures.
When Do Wood Turtles Reach Sexual Maturity?
Like many other kinds of turtles, wood turtles can live for a long time. Because of this, they have a slow growth rate, so it takes them years to reach adulthood.
Wood turtles typically reach sexual maturity between the ages of 14 and 18. This age can vary depending on environmental factors that influence their growth rate, as sexual maturity has more to do with the turtle’s size than its age.
Wood turtles that are not killed prematurely may live for decades, mating and laying eggs for the majority of their lifetimes.
In the wild, it is not uncommon for wood turtles to live 40 years or longer. In captivity, those that are well cared for may live up to 80 years.
Wood turtles lay just 4 to 18 eggs per year–much fewer than most turtles. Many of their eggs are eaten by predators before they hatch, and even those that survive long enough to hatch are often killed before the babies reach adulthood.