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Anna, Reptile Expert, Biologist
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 11188
Experience:  Have owned turtles, snakes, amphibians, and lizards. Study and provide habitat for wild herps.
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For turtle specialist. A couple of months ago I saw a box

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For turtle specialist. A couple of months ago I saw a box turtle digging a hole and laying her eggs in my back yard here in northeastern Georgia. Reading online I learned that the nest could be vulnerable so I built a hardware cloth enclosure around it and have kept an eye on it regularly, and it has not been is coming up on 70-75 days when the babies could emerge and I need advice ad to what to do next. Should I put a small pile of leaves in the enclosure for them to hide under and get shade? Should I provide water? How long should I keep them until removing the enclosure? I would appreciate as much information as possible on how to give the turtles their best chance of survival. Multiple experts are encouraged to weigh in. Thank you.

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a biologist with a special interest in reptiles.It's very kind of you to want to help these turtles, and box turtles need all the help they can get.

Once the babies hatch, they live on the remains of the yolk sac for some time. They normally do not leave the nest for several days, and sometimes they even stay there through the winter. Regardless, they don't travel very far for months and spend most of their time hiding and looking for food in the soil and leaf litter. So, yes, adding leaves would be an excellent idea.

Hatchlings are very vulnerable to predators. They hide so well that you may not even see them. Besides providing leaves, you can put out a very shallow water container, for example a small flower pot saucer or a margarine tub lid. They can drown if they can't get out of their water container, so keep it shallow. You could protect them even more by leaving hardware cloth around the area until next spring. The fence you make should be about 10 feet by 10 feet if you choose to do this. That won't protect them from every predator, but will increase their chances a bit. A cover made of hardware wire would help even more. I'm going to give you a link to a site with more information. It will tell you much more about box turtle hatchlings, and may give you other ideas to help:

If you need anything else, let me know in a REPLY. I wish you much success in helping these little ones.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for your response. I will check the link you provided. I am not able to fashion a 10x10 foot fence with top since the nest is right at the edge of the woods. how long should I keep them in the small (20x16 inch) topped enclosure that is over the nest currently? And how will I know when it is time to release them?

You're welcome. Under those circumstances, I would leave the smaller fence in place for about a week. Then check on them to see if they have emerged from the nest yet. . They will dig their way out of the nest when they need more space. That's when you'll need to free them. If you haven't had rain for some time, you could sprinkle the ground to wet it like a rainfall would because when the ground is too dry, they can't dig out.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Anna--further to our previous discussion, I want to ask if you know of any organizations or experts who will raise turtle hatchlings until they are big enough to survive the world. Is so, can you advise how I might search for such? Thank you. Also, I have started to water the ground to soften the soil for when the babies are ready to dig out of the nest. Do you think it would be a good idea to have a wide path of forest ground debris leading from the enclosure to nearby bushes and the woods so that on release day they have safe covering? Other than fallen leaves, would you recommend anything else to be included in the enclosure for their first weeks stay? Like moss....or twigs....?


A path of forest debris may be helpful. The other items - moss and twigs- that you listed certainly won't hurt anything.

Some wildlife rehabilitators may take the hatchlings to raise if you are actually able to catch them. If you'll give me your state, I'll look for rehabbers there.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Since they will be in the enclosure once they hatch, I trust they will remain safe for awhile. I live in northeast Georgia. Thank you for your help.

Most of the rehabbers in Georgia are in the central region. There are a few who take reptiles. However, they may prefer to leave them wild. The only way to find out is to call and ask them once the babies hatch. Here are links to the lists:

Scroll about halfway down on this one:

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Many thanks!

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

for Anna, reptile expert: To date, no hatchlings have emerged from the nest. Leaves are falling as the temperature drops. Should I assume that these baby turtles did not survive? Or is there still a chance that they will emerge come spring after hibernating the winter away?

Hello again,

Yes, there is still a chance the babies will emerge in the spring. With a clutch laid late in the season like this one, the hatchlings sometimes simply hatch and immediately go into hibernation. Then they come out in the spring, looking for a good meal. I would just leave the nest alone. Make sure it has a good covering of leaves, but beyond that, there isn't anything you can do to help. The babies ahve either gone into hibernation, or it's possible the eggs weren't fertile to begin with. In either case, there's no harm in waiting until spring.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for that glimmer of hope. Can you tell me when I should start watching for the possibility of them emerging in spring? You might recall that I have a wire cloth cage around them to keep them safe from predators, so I would want to be watching for them to emerge in order that they have food and safe passage into the woods.

Start watching when it starts warming into the high 50's to lower 60's during the day. When that happens, you may want to remove some of the leaves so the sun can warm the ground. The warmth will let them know it's time to wake up. I hope they are all right. You've done so much to help them, and I would love for you to see them emerge in good health.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you! I will be back in touch come spring....hopefully with some good news.

P.S. Would mulch make a good warm covering for the winter months? Instead of leaves....

What kind of mulch did you have in mind?