Like most turtles, snapping turtles lay a lot of eggs to ensure the survival of their species. But just how many is “a lot”? How many eggs does a snapping turtle lay? When and where do they lay their eggs? How long is the incubation period? Keep reading as we explore the answers to all of these questions!
What You'll Learn Today
When Do Snapping Turtles Lay Eggs?
Snapping turtles don’t all lay their eggs at the same time of year. Because they are cold-blooded, they have to wait until the weather warms up before they can start breeding and building their nests.
For those found in southern parts of Florida, the winters rarely get very cold and snapping turtles may lay their eggs as early as February. The further north their range, the later it will warm up and the later they will lay their eggs.
In parts of Canada, for example, snapping turtles may not lay their eggs until November. After these eggs hatch, they will spend the rest of the winter brumating (hibernating) in their nest before emerging when the weather warms up.
On average, snapping turtles lay eggs in the summer months–around late May through June. Again, though, this depends on local climate and weather conditions.
If the winter is unseasonably warm in a given area, the snapping turtles may lay their eggs sooner than usual. On the other hand, if the winter is colder than normal, they may lay their eggs later in the season than they typically do.
How Many Eggs Do Snapping Turtles Lay?
Most snapping turtle eggs do not make it to maturity. Many are infertile and don’t hatch; many others are eaten by predators; still others die after hatching from birth defects, predation, or other natural factors.
With this in mind, snapping turtles have to lay a lot of eggs each season to continue their species. So, how many do they lay, exactly?
Snapping turtles typically lay between 20 and 40 eggs every year. The exact number a turtle lays most often depends on her size.
As you might imagine, larger snapping turtles tend to lay more eggs than smaller ones. Since they grow larger as they age, older snapping turtles tend to lay more eggs than younger ones.
Snapping turtle females are able to retain sperm for up to three years after mating. This means that they can still lay fertilized eggs without having to mate every single breeding season.
Where Do Snapping Turtles Lay Their Eggs?
Snapping turtles often travel relatively great distances–1 to 3 miles from their home–to lay their eggs. They are pretty particular about their nesting sites and may investigate several potential spots before deciding on one.
Snapping turtles look for locations that are slightly elevated, protected, and have loose soil that is easy to dig. They frequently choose river banks, road embankments, and even raised garden beds.
There is some thought that specific females will return to the site where they hatched, but this isn’t always the case. There is also evidence that they may choose the same nesting site year after year once they find one that they like.
When a turtle has chosen a nesting site, she will dig a hole, deposit her eggs inside, and cover them with dirt. She will then leave the site, and the babies will be on their own once they hatch.
How Long is the Incubation Period for Snapping Turtle Eggs?
Snapping turtle eggs don’t all incubate for the same length of time. The amount of time it takes for the babies to develop in the eggs can vary widely depending on environmental factors.
If the weather is warm and there is plenty of humidity in the environment, then the eggs may hatch in as little as 50 to 60 days. If there is a period of drought or prolonged temperature extremes, it may take the babies longer to develop, and they may not hatch for well over a hundred days.
On average, snapping turtle eggs incubate for about 80 to 90 days.
Check out this video of baby snapping turtles hatching from their eggs:
Snapping turtles typically lay about 20 to 40 eggs each season, though few of these eggs will successfully make it to adulthood. The eggs are laid in a hole in the ground anytime between February and November, where they incubate for an average of 80 to 90 days before hatching.
Looking to learn more about these beautiful creatures? You can read our guide on how to handle a snapping turtle.